Celebrating Sports : County Hall of Fame Seeks to Move Into Camarillo Building

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After honoring the county's greatest athletes for more than a decade, the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame wants to move its memorabilia out of closets and dusty garages into a permanent home at the old Camarillo police station.

The nonprofit group pitched that idea to the City Council Wednesday, and council members ordered a study of whether the hall should move into the police station once it closes next spring.

"This would be the culmination of a dream," Hall of Fame Chairman Chuck Eskew said before the meeting. "It would be a place where our members and inductees could entrust their memorabilia and which we could use as a base of operations."

Eskew said the old Palm Drive station could be leased to his group for a nominal fee once police move to the remodeled Bill Esty Center in May or June.

The sports group would hire a part-time curator and pay insurance and other operating costs. Eskew said the museum would have a $20,000 annual budget.

The Hall of Fame has inducted more than 60 of the county's finest athletes since it was founded in 1982, including many who became professional athletes. Such athletes as former Los Angeles Dodger third baseman Ken McMullen and longtime Laker forward Jamaal Wilkes have been honored, Eskew said.

Eskew said the hall has all varieties of memorabilia from Ventura County's athletic past--but no place to show it off.

Stored away in garages all over the county are famous baseball bats used for historic hits, cleats worn by local stars and old newspapers clippings and photographs, he said. And the shrine probably would also include Olympic gold medals won by local track stars, he said.

Councilman Michael Morgan said he liked the idea of the Hall of Fame museum at the police station.

"I think it would help enliven that part of Ventura Boulevard. It's a solid idea that we should look into," Morgan said. "My only concern is whether the location isn't a little too far off the freeway for the public to find."

City Manager Bill Little said that while the idea deserves study, the city needs to consider other uses for the old building, a former Bank of America branch.

"Even if we leased it to them, there's a fairly complicated set of rules and regulations we would first have to follow before we could turn it over," Little said. "It's not as easy as it sounds."

Jack Smith, a retired 30-year Ventura High School football coach who was inducted into the hall in 1988, said a permanent home for notable memorabilia is a good idea.

"Because sports is such a rich part of our history as Americans and as Ventura County residents, it would be a shame not to find a place where these items can be shared with the public," he said.

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