The folks at the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, recently posted an update on the museum’s condition and how fundraising is going. This update, also posted below, as well as donation information, can be found here.
Some ten weeks after being devastated by the worst flood in Iowa history, the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum is working very hard to get back on its feet.
“It’s a long, somewhat painful process,” said Mike Chapman, executive director since the museum’s inception over 11 years ago. “With each passing week, we realize even more poignantly the extant of the tragedy, and also how important the museum is to thousands of wrestling fans across the nation.”
Chapman said donations have come in at a steady pace, ranging in size from $10 to $10,000. “The donations have cut through all social strata, and have been a tremendous boost to our plans.”
The museum moved to Waterloo from Newton, Iowa, and had its grand opening on January 9, 2007. Over $770,000 was spent on the renovation of the building.
“We received rave reviews from everyone who saw it,” said Chapman. “People just couldn’t believe how beautiful this facility was.”
The museum was designed by architects from Kirk Gross Company, a Waterloo firm that builds banks. The company is owned by Bob Buckley, president of the museum board of directors, and has donated considerable time, energy and financial resources to the project.
Visitors walked into the Lincoln Lobby and were greeted by a life-size mural of Abe Lincoln wrestling at the age of 23, in New Salem, Illinois. The museum was laid out so that visitors would receive a quick education in the history of the sport, dating back to Jacob wrestling the angel of the Lord, as described in the Bible.
Flood waters from the rampaging Cedar River which runs through the center of the city, surrounded the museum on the night of June 10. Sandbagging efforts were able to control the water buildup on the outside, but the entire first floor exhibit area was wiped out by the waters that backed up from the sewer system beneath the building. Every single wall was removed up to three and a half feet. All the carpeting and cabinets were lost.
The 30 display cabinets were destroyed, as was all the furniture in the Lincoln Lobby, the Arno Niemand Theater, the Bob Siddens-Keith Young Lounge, and the Dean Rockwell Library and Research Center.
The entire inventory for the gift shop was stored in the basement and was destroyed by the sewer backup. An estimated 1,000 books were lost, as were countless DVDs, trading card sets and limited edition prints. Over 10,000 posters were ruined, along with a sizeable quantity of wrestling attire. Nearly 1,000 brand new postcards were destroyed.
In addition, the museum lost invaluable historic information that was stored in a dozen filing cabinets.
One of the museum’s major sources of revenue comes from the sales of gift shop merchandise, from walk-in traffic, on the web site and at the various events the museum attends, or hosts. Nearly 90 percent of that inventory was destroyed.
The museum had no flood insurance and the staff has been busy applying for various grants. The staff has been working closely with FEMA, the federal agency that oversees disaster funding, and is in the final stages of the process.
“We are hoping that FEMA will be able to supply funding to make the museum whole again,” said Chapman. “We estimate it will take nearly $400,000 just to rebuild the museum to where it was before the flood hit.”
The goal is to have the museum up and operational by the time the National Duals come to the University of Northern Iowa on January 10-11.
“The museum has developed a great relationship with the NWCA and loves the fact that the National Duals were held in Cedar Falls last year,” said Kent Sesker, marketing director. “We had huge crowds last year and hosted the National Officials meeting. We really want to have the doors open in time for this super event.
“It will be a challenge, but that’s our goal.”
The museum has temporary offices in the River Plaza, situated two blocks from the museum. The building is the former Waterloo YMCA, which has a long and illustrious wrestling heritage itself.
“Donna and Verne Nelson, the owners of the Plaza, very generously donated the space to the museum free of charge until we can get up and running,” said Chapman. “We have had tremendous support from various Waterloo groups and the City is trying to help us in a variety of ways, too.
“Kent Sesker has been calling around the nation to ask for support and the response has been tremendous. Anyone wanting to be a part of the ‘Save the Museum’ project can call Kent and get involved.”
To become a member of the “Save the Museum” project, supporters are asked to make a commitment of $250 a year for three to five years. So far, nearly 100 have signed up, said Sesker.
Anyone wishing more information can contact Kent at 319-233-0745.
• The Quarterly Breakfast will be Thursday, September 18, in the museum lobby, from 8:00- 9:00 AM and is free to the public. Coffee, orange juice, bagels and donuts will be provided
• “This is a great opportunity for people to see the museum and more fully understand what is going on,” said Kent. “We hope people will want to come and be a part of the rebuilding process.”