Lawmakers hear Hall of Fame proposal

Contributed photoThe Freightmaster’s building at the Historic Catskill Point is a contender in the search for a a Wrestling Hall of Fame.

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.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

(5) comments

greenecountyfan

Peter Markou is on target. Why can't the building use be supplemented with an ongoing arts program including concerts, exhibitions, lectures, productions, etc. There is a confirmed history of the economic importance of the arts to a community. To that is added the positive impact on the residents and to non-residents. Greene County and Catskill in particular has a significant number of artists in all areas of the arts. The historic building can once more be a hub of activity as it was as a maritime center.

JosephP.

I am a lifelong UNY resident...I have been to Catskill for work and business more times than I can count. I am confused by the fact that so many in a community are opposed to something that would bring so much good. I see comments like "what does Pro Wrestling have to do with Catskill?" I mean no disrespect to anyone with a dissenting opinion. I would be happy to debate, professionally, anyone who feels this wouldn't be a good thing for Catskill and UNY. Let's all please remember people are leaving NY at a rapid rate. Shouldn't we try to breathe further help into our Upstate counties? So many posts thus far are misguided about pro wrestling and their fans. What Michael Lanuto has been mentioning is a Hall of Fame as well as helping a community. Has anyone who has commented negatively ever been to an Induction Weekend in Amsterdam, NY? Please answer honestly...Did anyone see the local businesses that benefited on Main Street when Tony Vellano created (along with help from local officials) the street festival that brought a tremendous amount of money, fun, and memories to the city of Amsterdam for SEVERAL years? These were people from around the country and locals having a great time. This is what we need in Upstate. I want to end this message by saying I have absolutely no business involvement with Mike or anyone else associated with the potential Hall in Catskill...zero...I am a fan of wrestling. I am a fan of Upstate...I am a fan of smart business. A long post and I welcome any thoughts...I'm sure a will get a few.

kromatiko

The article says the building is a maritime museum but fails to mention this in the potential use as a Hall of Fame...where is the museum in the building? And being a museum already could it not serve another local history fact, such as Catskill's native American origins?

jeffersonheights222

I agree with Peter Markou. This is perhaps one of the top ten historic buildings in the town of Catskill. It is the people's. It deserves far better than being a wrestling museum. If it was to be made a maritime center, for instance a subsite of the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, it would be much more appropriate and tourist worthy to promote the history of the Hudson River. Surely we can do better for this gem!

FrostyIndependence

Amen

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