One of the more unusual news items of the year to come out of Indiana is the upcoming presentation by the National Mascot Hall of Fame to the city of Whiting, Ind.
It seems the hall founder, a former Philadelphia Phillies’ mascot, is planning to meet with officials of the northwest Indiana city next week to discuss the possible establishment of the new hall there.
Why Whiting? Well, it’s anyone’s guess, but it’s not your usual city. Other than its driving distance to Chicago, its only other claim to fame is an annual pierogi festival.
If ever there was an economic development opportunity Logansport should pounce on, this is the one. What better city to be home to a mascot hall of fame than the only city in the country where Felix the Cat is the mascot? Not only that, Felix was the first high school mascot in Indiana and is permanently enshrined in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
This is the kind of project that fits with the sports theme of the state of Indiana from amateur sports to the Indianapolis 500 to the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers. It fits with the home of the NCAA headquarters and the motto, “The Crossroads of America.” If we Hoosiers are anything, it’s rabid about sports.
I have nothing against Whiting, but the highway access here is just as good. And who could argue with a feel-good thing like a mascot hall of fame? Who wouldn’t smile when they saw the San Diego Chicken?
It may not happen, but it’s interesting to note sometimes how much business comes into communities from other states, let alone counties. Just this week, it was refreshing to drive by the Dentzel carousel in Riverside Park and see license plates from four states on the cars parked across the street from it. There was no one playing softball or basketball on a rainy day, but there were plenty of people visiting Riverside Park from outside Indiana.
Granted, that doesn’t happen every day. But with a museum that would cater to every age from grade school field trips to senior citizen tour bus excursions, a mascot hall of fame would more than pay for itself in tax returns. Lodging would be filled for overnight stays. Restaurants would be patronized more often, and probably generate a demand for more restaurants. Buses would fuel up here. Meanwhile, the free exposure Logansport and Cass County would receive couldn’t hurt either.
Think of the sports fans who happen to have business contacts. There have to be thousands, if not millions. One of the places clients are often wined and dined is at a ballgame.
A mascot hall of fame could do for Logansport what the baseball bat industry does for Louisville or a certain type of basket does for a small city in Ohio. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame draws thousands to New Castle, but that’s just from Indiana primarily. Think what a national hall could do here.
And after all, doesn’t Felix deserve a little company. He’s only been a mascot here since 1926.
There’s an old superstition about black cats being bad luck, but Felix has never been anything but great luck for Logansport. Reading into his bag of tricks might help Logansport secure a shot at a project that would be a family-friendly weekend destination for all those Midwestern American households looking for a one-tank trip to somewhere cheap and fun.
I know there are critics of this idea reading this column and saying, “Yes, but the College Football Hall of Fame moved out of South Bend.” Point made, but a college hall in this case was probably too close to Notre Dame to be separated from its image. Canton, Ohio, works for the professional football hall because it isn’t Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, Washington or Miami, and it doesn’t have a franchise. It’s just in the middle of the country.
Keep in mind that Springfield, Mass., the home of the National Basketball Hall of Fame, and Cooperstown, N.Y., the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, aren’t exactly thriving cities either. Both are examples of communities without professional, major league franchises.
At the end of the day, a mascot hall of fame is something we can all cheer for, regardless of our school or team affiliations. Even if Logansport doesn’t land it and Whiting does, I’ll be visiting it, and I’ll probably be standing in line for a pierogi, too.
Dave Kitchell is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.