Last updated: 3/11/15 | Dateline: 10/3/02
There was magic as the new Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was unveiled in Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 28, 2002--and I'm not just talking about Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who, as a 2002 Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinee, was, indeed, among those present to celebrate the grand opening of the $45 million, 80,000-square-foot facility.
There was the magical interaction of more than 2,700 Springfield kids who participated in the Great Hall of Fame Basketball Pass--shepherding a basketball through the streets of Springfield on a course from Springfield College, the birthplace of basketball, to the new Hoop Hall. There were interactive illusions that put youngsters on video screens throughout the museum--calling the plays, broadcasting the game or challenging NBA stars to a little one-one-one action. The Harlem Globetrotters, who were also welcomed into the Hall of Fame the prior evening, had a few tricks up their sleeves, too.
More about this exciting New England attraction in a bit, but first...
A Sport is Born
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and during the brutal New England winter of 1891, James Naismith, a physical education student at the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, now Springfield College, found himself with an unenviable assignment--devise an indoor game to occupy the attention of a rowdy class of young men.
A couple of peach baskets, a soccer ball and a set of 13 rules later, Naismith had given birth to the game he called "basket ball." The recreational sport spread like wildfire as Naismith's original rules were circulated to other YMCAs, and by 1936, the game's inventor had the pleasure of witnessing the introduction of basketball as an Olympic sport at the Games in Berlin.
Still, it's not likely he ever envisioned that basketball would become a sport played by more than 300 million people in more than 200 countries of the world. Nor could he have likely predicted the heights to which today's professional basketball stars have soared.
The first Basketball Hall of Fame opened in 1968 on the campus of Springfield College. In 1985, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was relocated to downtown Springfield. As the city's planners began in the late '90s to dream of an expanded and revitalized urban environment along the Connecticut River, it was only natural that the Hall of Fame would serve as the centerpiece of the Springfield Riverfront Redevelopment Project. In addition to the new shrine to Naismith's game and its legendary players, the 18-acre project features an Uno Pizzeria & Grill, Samuel's Sports Bar and Max's Tavern restaurants, the Hilton Garden Inn (check rates and reviews at TripAdvisor), a Visitor Information Center and a riverfront park.
Visit the Hall
If you call yourself a basketball fan, you really have to plan a pilgrimage to Springfield. Fans of all ages can easily lose themselves for hours within the three-story, spherical museum, which has 35,000 square feet of exhibit space for basketball memorabilia and artifacts, three theaters, interactive kiosks loaded with Hall of Famer data and trivia, Subway restaurant and a Hall of Fame museum gift shop.
That's just for warm-ups, though. The real fun is hitting the full-size "Center Court" for some shooting, passing and other skills challenges or heading to the second floor's high-tech, experiential attractions that allow you to measure your vertical leap, sit in the broadcaster's seat, coach a team to victory and even play a game of "Virtual Hoops."
For a look inside the Basketball Hall of Fame, take my Opening Day Photo Tour. Along the way, you may just get to see a celebrity or two.
If you're going to the Basketball Hall of Fame... click here for what you need to know including hours, directions and admission prices.
Next page > Begin the Basketball Hall of Fame Photo Tour
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is located at 1000 West Columbus Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Dates and Hours of Operation
The Hall of Fame is open Wednesday through Sunday from January through early April and daily the remainder of the year. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, with extended hours until 5 p.m. every day from late June through the end of the year.
Because the Hall of Fame may close for private functions, it is wise to confirm hours of operation ahead of your visit.
Admission to the Basketball Hall of Fame (as of 2015) is $22 for adults, $17 for seniors ages 65 and up, $16 for youths ages 5 to 15 and free for children under age 5.
From the East... Take the Massachusetts Turnpike West (I-90) to Exit 6 for I-291 West. Follow 291 West to Exit 1A for I-91 South. Take Exit 6 (Union Street) and proceed onto West Columbus Avenue. The Hall of Fame is on the right.
From the West... Take the Massachusetts Turnpike East (I-90) to Exit 4 for 91 South and follow directions as above.
From the North... Follow 91 South to Exit 6 and follow directions as above.
From the South... Take 95 North to Exit 47 for 91 North (New Haven). Continue straight on 91 North for 64 miles until Exit 6, the Springfield Center exit. Turn left onto Union Street at the first set of lights.
At the next light, turn left. The Hall of Fame is on the right.
Approximate Driving Times
From Boston, MA - 2 Hours
From Albany, NY - 1-1/2 Hours
From Hartford, CT - 1/2 Hour
From Brattleboro, VT - 1-1/4 Hours
From Augusta, ME - 5 Hours
From Concord, NH - 2-1/4 Hours
From New York City - 3-1/2 Hours
More Nearby Attractions
Accommodations Near the Basketball Hall of Fame
You can't get closer than the Hilton Garden Inn Springfield (check rates and reviews at TripAdvisor), which is part of the riverfront complex and just a short walk across a parking lot to the Basketball Hall of Fame entrance. Call 413-886-8000 or toll free, 877-STAY-HGI for reservations.
Also check my guide to hotels near Six Flags New England for other Springfield-area accommodations options.
For More Information
Call the Basketball Hall of Fame at 413-781-6500 or toll free, 877-4HOOPLA.
Next page > Begin the Basketball Hall of Fame Photo Tour