The National Mascot Hall of Fame (MHOF) is now open to the general public. Located just 30 minutes from Downtown Chicago, the interactive children’s museum celebrates professional and collegiate mascots (costumed characters) from across the United States and beyond.
Featuring content designed by JRA, the 25,000-square-feet (2,322 sq m) facility in Whiting, Indiana, opened on December 26. It promises to engage, educate and entertain fans with its interactive, themed exhibits.
The MHOF boasts such offerings as the Department of Furry Arts, the Science of Silliness Lab and the Phuzzical Education Department.
The museum will host events throughout the year, from birthday parties to mascot boot camps and weekly character appearances. Annual inductions will take place for professional and collegiate mascots who will then get voted into the Hall of Fame after they qualify for the induction.
The attraction is expected to welcome 50,000 annual visitors. Over the 20 years, it is forecasted to have a $241 million impact on the surrounding region.
Executive director Orestes Hernandez says he would like the MHOF to become one of the top 10 children’s museums in the country. “It may take some time, but we can get there. On the Hall of Fame side, the character side, I want it to be considered on the same level and spoken about in the same sentence as Cooperstown and Canton, Ohio – the professional hall of fames.”
“While it’s a children’s interactive museum, I really think a lot of adults are going to have more fun,” says Hernandez. “There’s so many cool exhibits, cool interactive places to just let your guard down and have wholesome fun with your kids at the same time while they’re learning.”
More than just a giant fun factory, the MHOF is expected to be the perfect destination for school field trips and youth organisations. Its displays and activities incorporate S.T.E.A.M. education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) to complement state and local curriculums. There are nearly 1.7 million students within a 100-mile radius.
JRA’s contribution to the project included master planning, writing and concept development, exhibit design, graphic design, executive media production, project management and art direction.
For JRA senior project director Rick O’Connell, the experience was fantastic. “Mascots are all about lighthearted fun and creating memories for families,” he says. “Not only was the subject matter wacky, fun and interesting, but so was the client! The City of Whiting really wanted the best experience possible for their guests. They allowed us to be as creative as we wanted. So much so that almost nothing was cut from the initial concept!”
The physics of mascots
“We’ve hidden S.T.E.A.M. principles throughout the experience,” adds O’Connell. “We teach guests about everything from healthy nutrition choices to the physics behind building a mascot head and the strain it can put on your body. The ultimate goal was for visitors to leave the Mascot Hall of Fame with a big smile on their face and a newfound respect for what it takes to be a mascot.”
Based in Cincinnati, JRA has designed many world-class family museums and attractions over the past 30+ years. Its credits include the Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta and the Crayola Experience in Pennsylvania.
Images courtesy Charlie Simokaitis Photography and JRA