CATSKILL — A trio of entrepreneurs on Monday presented to the Greene County Legislature the hopes of bringing an exciting new attraction to Catskill.
Catskill native Michael Lanuto, former Saugerties school district superintendent Seth Turner, who served as one of Rocky Johnson’s biographers, and Tony Vellano, the founder of the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, expressed to county lawmakers their interest in making Catskill the new home of the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Founded in 1999 in Schenectady, the hall moved to Amsterdam in 2002 and finally to Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2016, where Vellano said he was unhappy with how the hall was managed.
Residents on the East Coast missed the hall and wanted it to make a comeback, he said.
After pairing up and creating their vision, the group secured a charter and 501C3 status for the proposed Hall of Fame in December, Turner said.
One of the sites the group is considering is the Freightmaster’s Building at the Historic Catskill Point.
“The former Freightmaster’s Building is a vintage brick structure converted into a maritime museum with handicapped-accessible bathrooms,” according to greatnortherncatskills.com
Greene County Treasurer Peter Markou objected to the location.
“The Point and the Freightmaster’s Building exemplify the pride of place many of us experience whenever we are there,” he said. “The Point is a major county asset and as the treasurer and chief financial officer of the county, I would be remiss in my fiduciary duty if I did not try to protect it. It belongs to the people.”
Lanuto said the historical nature of the building is important to the group and they want to preserve that.
“But right now it’s dying,” Lanuto said. “We just want to breathe some life into that baby.”
Greene County Legislature Chairman Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, asked if any other locations are being considered.
Vellano has received requests to return back to the Amsterdam-Schenectady area, he said.
Lanuto and Turner emphasized their desire to bring the hall to Catskill.
Linger asked what the price of admission would be.
Vellano said that at the Texas location, general admission was $5, with seniors and children at $3.
Legislator Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, voiced his support for the project.
“This project would be a way to preserve one of our historic buildings and bring new life to a building that basically is empty,” Luvera said. “It would help Greene County be another destination place for tourists. This would take maintenance and utilities of the building off the taxpayers’ hands and put in the organizations. The project has the potential to increase sales tax that should reduce property taxes, increase revenue to for local businesses, and that sounds like a win-win for the taxpayer.”
Legislators Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie, and Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, agreed that it sounded like a good idea.
The Cus D’Amato Memorial Gym on Main Street in Catskill, where a young Mike Tyson trained in the 1980s, was one of two finalists for the International Boxing Hall of Fame, but was beaten out by Canastota, New York.