Letter From Son-in-Law of Founder of Hall of Champions Sheds Light on What's Next

Son-in-Law Jerry Kluski describes what Bob Breitbard meant to San Diego sports and what will happen to the museum

In a letter to NBC 7, the son-in-law of Bob Breitbard, the late founder of the San Diego Hall of Champions sports museum, explains his father-in-law’s impact on the San Diego sports scene and what is next for the museum.

The Hall of Fame will be moved to the Western Metal Supply Co. Building in Petco Park.

Construction is expected to finish this year, during the San Diego Padres' season.

Here is the letter in full: 

"Any long time sports fan in San Diego knows the name, Bob Breitbard. Bob was one of the prime movers for the development of all sports in the city. He was instrumental in bringing in the Padres, Chargers and the Holiday Bowl. He was an icon legend and legend in San Diego. No one ever had a bad word to say about Bob.

In the mid-1960’s San Diego had no sports arena. What did Bob do? He built one. And with private funds. He didn’t ask for a public handout to cover the costs. The Sports Arena just celebrated its 50th anniversary and is still going strong. Bob brought the original Gulls franchise to San Diego and the San Diego Rockets, the NBA basketball team. He had a talent for signing players. He always said that you can teach skills but you can’t teach “smart”. He signed players who later became head coaches in the NBA such as Pat Riley and Rudy Tomjanovich.

The Sports arena hosted many concerts, circuses, boxing matches, indoor soccer games and was even the sight for an NCAA Final Four.

But perhaps the thing that Bob is most remembered for is the Hall of Champions. The idea started when, one day, his wife Lil told him to get the memorabilia junk out of the garage. Her request led to the establishment of what is now the largest multi-sport museum in the United States comprising more than 66,000 square feet in Balboa Park.

The Hall of Champions is much more than a museum. Yes, there is much memorabilia there chronicling achievements in all sports. But also, it is the home of the Hall of Fame which has had inductees from a wide array of sports such as racquetball, swimming, tennis, skateboarding, as well as football, basketball, baseball and hockey. Included are men and women who have some connection with sports and San Diego and have excelled in their chosen field.

Also, the Hall is the repository of archives containing photos and articles about San Diego sports going back many years.

Also near and dear to Bob’s heart is the Breitbard Awards Program that monthly confers awards to high school, college and professional athletes who have excelled in that month. Thousands of Breitbard awards have been conferred over the years and folks who received them many years ago still treasure them.

The Hall also is involved in several community programs benefiting at-risk children working with the Sheriff's Department and other agencies. The Hall is also involved in working with the military to provide support for children of folks on deployment all over the world.

The highlight of the Hall’s year is the annual Salute Dinner where athletes recommended by the sports media are inducted into the Hall of Fame. Included at the dinner is recognition of community champions, humanitarian recipients and a challenged athlete award. Their speeches are usually moving and well received by the audience.

So, why am I telling you all this?

Nothing is static in life and the Hall is at a crossroads not unlike other museums. Therefore, the Hall is taking important steps to increase sustainability, reach, and impact in the community. These measures are designed to accomplish many things, such as appealing to the emerging generation and changing philanthropic demographics to ensure the Hall is poised for a bright, sustainable future.

I’m not going to tell you that the Hall will close. Far from it. What will happen is the programs will continue as they always have, but in different locations. The Hall of Fame will be moved to the Western Metals Supply Building in Petco Park. The Padres have been quite gracious and have designed a space where more people will see the Hall of Fame plaques on any game day than visited the Hall of Champions in a full year.

The Hall is in discussion with the San Diego History Center to take the archives of photos and articles and add them to their collection of other San Diego documents of historical significance. Those archives will be available to the public on a regular basis.

Then awards program and community service activities will continue just as before. The offices for those functions will be relocated to a site yet to be determined.

As for the memorabilia, several of the items on display are on loan from various benefactors and are not owned by the Hall. For those items, if returns are asked, they will be honored. The balance of the items will be going through a deaccession program involving, in large part, a public auction."

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