Sports Legends Museum sales up

Posted: 8:00 pm Sun, January 3, 2010
By Liz Farmer
Daily Record Business Writer

Thanks to a little help from its friends, Baltimore’s Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards posted a nearly 30 percent increase in its combined store sales and admissions revenue in 2009.
The museum, home of the Ravens and Orioles team store, increased its store and admissions revenue by more than $200,000 to $920,000 for the 2009 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
It’s the biggest year-over-year increase for the Baltimore sports history and memorabilia museum since it opened in 2005.
Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation Inc., which operates the museum, said most of the revenue boost came from increased store sales in 2009, while the attendance total inched up about 1.5 percent.
He attributed the store’s success to a flurry of purchases during the Ravens playoff run last winter and to increased foot traffic because of the Hilton Baltimore hotel that opened more than a year ago across the street near the Convention Center.
“Our notion is, the more people walking around the facility, the more people coming in,” said Gibbons. “The Hilton brought more people.”
Gibbons said the Ravens-related sales made a “big difference” early in the year. During the Ravens’ run, which ended in late January with a loss to Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game, the Sports Legends store could barely hang on to Ravens playoff T-shirts and “Wacko for Flacco” shirts. At one point, it sold out for five days straight, John V. Hein, the museum’s director of business development, said at the time.
Gibbons said sales for the 2010 fiscal year have already seen a boost from fans’ excitement over Michael Oher jerseys. With their first round pick in 2009, the Ravens selected Oher, an offensive lineman who was the subject of the 2007 book “The Blind Side,” which was adapted to a film recently released in theaters.
“We’re having trouble keeping them in,” said Gibbons.
And despite continually declining attendance at Orioles games, which can affect museum attendance levels, the frenzy over rookie phenom Matt Wieters after the Orioles called up the catcher in May helped Orioles- and Wieters-related sales in the weeks surrounding his major league debut.
“With him coming to the major league, 40,000 people showed up at Oriole Park that night,” said Gibbons, referring to Wieters’ debut in Baltimore. “And that helped attendance and when you sell jerseys and T-shirts with his name … people want to buy that stuff.”
But Gibbons said the museum, which has faced setbacks since it opened, still had a long way to go. With lower-than-expected attendance levels, it racked up $444,274 in outstanding rent during its first two years. Because of the museum’s nonprofit status, the state reduced its monthly rent from more than $32,000 to $10,300 and forgave the nearly $445,000 debt.
Goals for 2010 include increasing the museum’s brand awareness and adding uniquely Baltimore sports items to its store inventory to help it stand out as the place to go for Baltimore sports history.

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