By Jason Elmquist
Stillwater News Press
When I stepped through the doors of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on June 2 for the first time in two years, I was knocked back for a second.
It wasn’t just from the cool breeze of the air conditioning – which the Hall had been lacking up until its renovation a little over a year ago. No, it was the renovation itself.
The efforts of Lee Roy Smith and the Board of Directors to secure the funds to update the outdated building took me a moment to take in before the Presentation of Plaques, which kicked off Honors Weekend at the Hall of Fame.
The stark contrast of what it once was, and what it has become, was mesmerizing.
I spent an hour – which wasn’t nearly long enough – walking around the new exhibits, unaware of what I might have in fact already seen in past visits because I was now seeing everything in a different light.
There is new life in this monument to wrestling.
It’s not that the Hall previously failed to represent the sport and showcase the many milestones and memorabilia from wrestling. It is just that now you suddenly feel more immersed throughout your journey around the building.
The previous layout seemed to confine every section to its own little cramped cranny. Now it’s a seamless transition that never allows your eyes to dart away from the exhibits.
It celebrates the many levels of the sport – from an exhibit on the annual national high school award winners, to memorabilia showcasing college student-athletes. And it’s all capped with the Distinguished Members Gallery to immortalize those that have shaped the sport over generations.
They even found it important to implement some means to keep kids attracted throughout. Whether it was some exhibits that allowed tinkering, or the multitude of touch screens that hid endless hours of information, the kids running around at the reception were distracted by the sport – instead of their smartphones.