2005 event touts Sun Merc as site of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…and museum

[Source: America West Arena website, January 24, 2005] — Ask any fan.  America West Arena has always been rockin’.  And now comes the rollin’.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is going “On Tour” and the first stop is at the corner of Jackson and 3rd Streets next door to AWA.  Currently housing the Phoenix Suns Athletic Club, the Sun Mercantile Building will be transformed into a mini-rock museum by early 2005.  The concept is intended to offer audiences outside of Ohio a chance to experience special exhibits and collections similar to those featured in the Cleveland-based Hall of Fame. “We are the first,” Suns Chairman Jerry Colangelo said.  “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has expanded and we’re happy to represent them on the West Coast.”

It’s only fitting that the 75-year-old brick warehouse, a structure listed on the National Register of Historic Places, will soon house some of rock and roll’s most historic artifacts.  While the official list of arriving music goodies is still TBA, when you’re talking about a museum that’s got everything from Jimi Hendrix’s 1965 Fender Stratocaster and Prince’s Purple Rain coat to handwritten lyrics to Beatles’ songs, you know some good memorabilia will be en route to the Valley.  “We haven’t figured out specifically what we’re going to bring here,” said Jim Henke, Chief Curator at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.  “But it’s not about autographed guitars.  It’s the real costumes people wore on stage, the guitars they played, their handwritten lyrics, artifacts like that.  We’re going to have a standing exhibit that will deal with the history of rock and roll, but then what we really want to do is bring down these specialty exhibits that we’ve done over the years.”

Some of those past exhibits included displays on John Lennon, the Supremes, U2, the psychedelic era and Elvis Presley.  Henke promises “exhibits that are really huge and in-depth,” just like what’s back in Cleveland.  While the exhibits will change periodically like any museum’s collection, this isn’t a temporary memorabilia road show.  The full conversion of the two-floor, 28,000 square-foot building is proof of that.  And don’t consider this the start of a trend in terms of the museum officially expanding outside of Cleveland.  As Terry Stewart, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, puts it, the biggest stumbling block in the past was finding partners who understood the museum’s mission statement and why it exists in the first place… to educate people on the music genre’s origins, development, legends, and cultural impact.  “We wanted a place to have our special artifacts, take it to an area and expose it to more folks,” Stewart said.  “Jerry’s people understood that we had to have a first-class building that’s secure and one that has all the environmental protection, one where we feel comfortable and it feels just like being back in Cleveland.  We found that in Mr. Colangelo and his people here.”

Located right off the Bud Light Paseo, “On Tour” should see a great deal of foot traffic once doors officially open early next year.  In addition to having Bank One Ballpark and the Dodge Theatre right around the corner, AWA’s expansion should be finished by then, complete with a new retail setup adjacent to the new museum.  “I’m excited to get to the finish line,” Colangelo added.  “When the building is remodeled and the Hall of Fame is up and running and our retail is in place, it should be fascinating.”

In a town that’s hosted countless music legends over the years like Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones and B.B. King, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s “On Tour” facility fits in perfectly with the tradition and growth of downtown Phoenix. “It illustrates we’re just not in the basketball or baseball business,” Colangelo said. “It’s the entertainment business and it’s all encompassing. We hold major events here, all types of entertainment and music. This is just a perfect condition, because it enhances the experience for our consumers and it will be a major traffic builder for those who might be coming downtown for the first time or those who’ll start frequenting downtown more often.”

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