Saratoga Springs’ National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame just punched its ticket for the future. Today (August 3), its President, John Hendrickson, laid out an ambitious new plan to redesign the existing Hall of Fame. The announcement came during the 2018 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Fasig-Tipton, during which three members of the Whitney family were inducted, including Cornelius “Sonny” Vanderbilt Whitney, late husband to Saratoga’s “savior” Marylou Whitney. “At the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, we’re striving to be the best sports hall of fame in the country,” Hendrickson told the audience. “We knew we needed a game-changer—a must-see destination.” A redesign committee has been appointed to take on the task, headed by some of the leading experts and professionals in the field, such as wine and horse racing mogul Barbara Banke, whose Stonestreet Stables co-owned Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic; Owner Debby Oxley, who, along with her husband, John, won the 2001 Derby with Monarchos; horse farm owner Robert Clay, whose Three Chimneys Farm has been home to a panoply of champion horses, including Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew; Penelope Miller, Senior Manager, Digital Media, at America’s Best Racing; and Racing Museum trustee G.D. Hieronymus.
The current Hall of Fame, which features lit displays of colorful jockey silks atop rows of commemorative plaques, will be transformed into a state-of-the-art, interactive educational experience where the touch of a screen will bring patrons deeper into the history and excitement of Thoroughbred racing. The new Hall of Fame will feature multiple projection screens, including an ultramodern, 360-degree screen that will surround the audience with images and clips from the world of Thoroughbred racing, as well as the portraits and stories of each of the Hall’s current inductees. “I believe [the experience] will be one of the most important things that our industry has ever done for this sport in our lifetimes,” said Hendrickson.
The award winning Donna Lawrence Productions, which creates films and immersive experiences, including multiscreen, 4D and 360-degree installations, has been tapped to handle the project. The new Hall of Fame experience is expected to be completed by 2020 and is estimated to cost up to $20 million. Hendrickson acknowledged the scope and complexities of the plan. “It will take the entire industry’s participation to complete this project, because we’re cataloging history and [will be] able to license it to other tracks.” To show his family’s commitment to the project, Hendrickson and his wife kicked off the campaign with a donation of $1 million.