MUSCLE SHOALS — Local legislators agree the Alabama Music Hall of Fame is worth saving, but said it’s up to the museum’s board of directors to craft a plan to raise revenue to operate the facility and move it into the future.
Several ideas were discussed Monday by five members of the Shoals legislative delegation. They met at the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments to discuss the hall of fame.
There was talk about using the buzz created by a music documentary that made its debut Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah., to approach Gov. Robert Bentley about the state assisting the ailing facility.
The hall of fame closed during the Christmas holidays and has not reopened. The facility is behind on its utility bills and the power has been turned off.
Monday’s meeting was called by state Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay. Morrow was joined by Rep. Marcel Black, D-Muscle Shoals, Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, Rep. Greg Burdine, D-Florence, and state Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville.
Tuscumbia Mayor Bill Shoemaker attended the meeting, as did hall of fame Executive Director Wiley Barnard.
Barnard said hall of fame board Chairman Rodney Hall and board member Jimmy Johnson were “snowed in” in Utah. Hall and Johnson were in Utah for the premier of the documentary, simply titled, “Muscle Shoals.”
Morrow said the legislators need to know the current status of the hall of fame so they can identify options for its future.
The documentary is expected to help shine a positive light on Muscle Shoals music, but Burdine said it’s a shame the facility created to highlight the state’s music heritage is not open.
Burdine said he wants to explore what it would take to open the facility at least for a short time to capitalize on the interest created by the film.
Legislators discussed asking that they, Barnard and the board, meet with the governor to discuss possible funding.
Greer and the other legislators agreed that getting the hall of fame back in the general fund budget would be difficult.
Burdine said any effort to get money from Montgomery would have to be coupled with other fundraising efforts, such as community support and corporate donations. Not only that, he said they would have to give the governor a reason to fund the hall of fame while funding is cut for similar state attractions.
Bill Matthews, along with Dave Anderson, spearheaded the effort to raise money for the Singing River sculpture project, which will place a sculpture representing the area’s musical heritage in each Shoals city.
He presented a plan for the museum that would couple state money with locally raised money from Tuscumbia, Florence, Sheffield and Muscle Shoals, and the Colbert and Florence-Lauderdale tourism bureaus, to provide operating capital for the facility.
“Never in our time have we had an opportunity like we have now,” Matthews said.
Greer suggested using a portion of the area’s lodging taxes to assist the hall of fame. He said that method has been used before to fund projects in other communities.
Florence businessman Marty Abroms, who was asked last year by Morrow to head a task force to assist the board of directors, said admission only accounts for about 20 percent of most museum’s revenue.
He said they must also have a revenue stream funded by private donors and other sources.
Morrow said it would be difficult for the group to meet again since the legislative session starts Feb. 5. Instead, the board could come to Montgomery for a meeting with the delegation and the governor.
Barnard said he is working with various theaters in the state and in Nashville to host the “Muscle Shoals” documentary.
He said the film’s producer has agreed to allow the film to be shown in the Shoals as a hall of fame fundraiser.
The meeting came just over a year since Morrow appointed the task force, whose recommendations were adopted by the hall of fame board of directors.
Some of the recommendations were to sell the property and buildings for fair market value, move the headquarters to a more efficient facility in Colbert County, with an up-to-date exhibit, use a portion of the land sales proceeds for operations while seeking private funding sources.
Another recommendation was to seek partners in high tourism areas to build, operate and showcase modern, interactive exhibits that would include memorabilia, art and film.
Shoemaker said the city of Tuscumbia provided a portion of the land for the hall of fame and ran utilities to the site. He said he does not know of any other contributions made by other Shoals cities.
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