By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
For the second time in history, the Baseball Hall of Fame had an opening day.
“It’s only the second opener, after the day we first opened,” said Tim Mead, Hall of Fame president. “It puts it in perspective.”
On Friday, June 26, nearly 81 years to the day of the first June 12, 1939 opening, Oneonta’s Steve Pindar, visitor services director, opened the glass door at 25 Main St. and called out, “we’re open.”
It had been closed since March 15, the weekend Governor Cuomo declared a “state of emergency” to combat COVID-19.
“On Friday, we had 150 visitors,” said Mead in a Monday, June 29 interview. “On Saturday, we had 250, and by Sunday, we had 340 guests.”
The Hall was allowed to open under Phase Four of NY Forward with strict guidelines about social distancing, maximum capacity and masks. “Four weeks ago, we began putting together our reopening plan,” Mead said. “Based on the two weeks between Phase One and Phase Two, we projected that we could open by the end of June.”
He worked with the American Association of Museums, Rock & Roll Hall President Greg Harris, formerly of Cooperstown, and Paul D’Ambrosio, Fenimore and Farmers’ museum president/CEO, to design the Hall’s reopening plan.
“We wanted to see what others had done,” he said. “Being a museum, we have basic standards we need to follow, but there’s a uniqueness to how we have to clean.”
The Hall is able to operate at 25 percent of capacity – maximum capacity is 12,000 visitors a day. To maintain a manageable flow, the Hall is using timed ticketing, purchased online, which allows 25 visitors every half-hour.
But enforcing the protocols gave the Hall a chance to be creative. Take the signage. “Yogi Wore a Mask: Be Like Yogi” reads one sign, and the protocols, including social distancing, not entering if sick and frequent hand sanitizing at one of the 25 stations throughout the Hall – are called the “Starting Nine.”
“Wherever possible, when we did signage, we tried to do it in a baseball way,” said Jon Shestakofsky, vice president/communications. “Let’s have a little fun.”
The Hall redesigned the flow of traffic to move one way, and in smaller spaces, such as the art gallery, put up ropes to help keep visitors on the path.
To keep touch-screen exhibits sanitary, Shestakofsky demonstrated a rubber-tipped stylus, which are handed out to every visitor. With it, “you can still push the buttons, make your own baseball card, and see the Holy Grails,” he said. “We wanted all our exhibit spaces to be fully functional.”
And although the Grandstand and Bullpen theaters are closed, visitors can watch the “Generations of the Game” film through the Baseball Hall of Fame app.
Prior to the closure, the Locker Room exhibit had been relocated to the third-floor gallery. “It gives it more of a locker room feel,” said Shestakofsky.
During their closure, the Hall offered a robust slate of digital programming, including talks, trivia and virtual field trips, which Mead says they intend to continue.
“We challenged ourselves,” said Mead. “We didn’t want to look at short-term solutions, we wanted to look at long-term possibilities.”