New Jersey Hall of Fame Breaks Ground on Permanent Home

American Dream complex will host high-tech museum showcasing Hall of Fame inductees.

From left: Steve Edwards, President of the NJ Hall of Fame; Harlan Coben, Class of 2017; Bart Oates, a NJ Hall of Fame board member; and Al Leiter, Class of 2017.
From left: Steve Edwards, President of the NJ Hall of Fame; Harlan Coben, Class of 2017; Bart Oates, a NJ Hall of Fame board member; and Al Leiter, Class of 2017.
Photo courtesy of Gellman Images

American Dream, the mammoth retail and entertainment complex being developed in the Meadowlands, has turned into a dream come true for the New Jersey Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame will get its hoped for permanent home within the American Dream complex.

“American Dream is a place I regard as the center of the universe,” said New Jersey Hall of Fame president Steve Edwards at today’s groundbreaking ceremony for the new high-tech facility. Several dozen New Jersey officials and VIPs, including New Jersey Hall of Fame inductees Harlan Coben and Al Leiter, attended the ceremony, which took place under a canopy near Gate D of the largely dormant Izod Center.

The New Jersey Hall of Fame’s planned 16,000-square-foot facility will epitomize a 21st-century museum, Edwards told New Jersey Monthly. It will include a movie theater, a hologram theater and a virtual reality theater, each promising an immersive experience fueled by archival footage and fresh interviews with all living New Jersey Hall of Fame inductees.

The hologram concept sounds particularly exciting. Edwards, who stresses the educational aspect of the Hall of Fame’s mission, says one glass-enclosed hologram booth will have Thomas Alva Edison talking about his invention of the incandescent light. This will be unveiled as part of the New Jersey Hall of Fame exhibit already in place at Newark Liberty International Airport.

New Jersey Hall of Fame inductees will be represented at the new museum on what Edwards calls an “electronic wall of fame” at the entrance to the space. The facility also will house a collection of artifacts relating to the inductees. Among the early exhibits: A Model T Ford gifted by Henry Ford to Edison in 1928. Other treasures in the Hall of Fame’s possession include Jack Nicholson’s second-grade report card and Susan Sarandon’s cheerleading jacket.

American Dream, a vastly expanded version of the defunct Xanadu mall project, is projected to open this spring. Its developers, the Triple Five Group of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, are predicting 40 million people will visit the complex each year, drawn by a mix of entertainment, shopping and dining experiences.

The Hall of Fame has a 45-year lease for its facility, which Edwards says is strategically located on the lower level of American Dream in a space that connects the complex’s retail and entertainment attractions. Among the nearby attractions will be the Legoland Discovery Center, Sealife Aquarium, Nickelodeon Universe and DreamWorks Waterpark.

Edwards says the Hall of Fame has raised $5.775 million to date for the new facility, including $2.5 million from the state. He says that’s the “first taxpayer money” going toward the Hall, which was established in 2003. The Hall’s capital-campaign goal is $10 million.

Ribbon cutting for the new facility is planned for summer 2020. To date, the New Jersey Hall of Fame has held 10 induction ceremonies, honoring more than 120 individuals with ties to New Jersey, including the likes of Albert Einstein, Bruce Springsteen and Yogi Berra.

At today’s groundbreaking, former New York Yankees and Mets star pitcher Al Leiter, a 2017 New Jersey Hall of Fame inductee, declared, “This place is going to be fantastic.”

Novelist Coben — Leiter’s fellow 2017 inductee — had one word for the planned facility: “Awesome.”

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