By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
After months of trying to reel it in, Cullman officials just hooked a massive new tourist attraction.
The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame announced Friday night that Cullman has been selected as the new host site for the group’s hall of fame complex. The announcement was part of the hall of fame induction dinner, held concurrently with the Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa, Okla. Cullman beat out nearby community Guntersville to host the facility.
The proposed facility will include a 56,250-square-foot civic center, 30,900-sqaure-foot hall of fame, an aquarium, gift shop and exhibit space.
Cullman Mayor Max Townson said he was honored to learn the hall of fame will be coming to the area, noting it will be another fantastic addition to the community’s nationally recognized parks department.
“This is like landing a 20-pound bass with a 10-pound line on a spinner bait,” Townson said once the announcement was made. “We are excited about the affiliation with the hall of fame and I can assure you that the Hall of Fame board and the bass fishing industry will be proud to have the Cullman community as a partner. We are committed as a community to making the hall of fame successful and believe your complex, as a part of a Cullman convention and civic center, will be a great tourism venture for Cullman, the State of Alabama and the entire country.”
The $17 million hall of fame will be constructed as a joint project between the City of Cullman and Cullman County at the city-owned Burrow Property on County Road 222. The state recently announced plans to add an Interstate 65 interchange approximately one mile from the proposed site, which officials say was a major factor in the recruitment.
Outgoing Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce chair Charlie NeSmith, who helped the city and county pursue the project, said the announcement could be a boon for local tourism.
“The Chamber has worked diligently, along with so many others, on this project,” NeSmith said. “It has so much potential down the road and could mean so much for this community.”
Cullman City Council member Andy Page credited the good news to the hard work of city, county and community leaders giving the bass board the full court press during the recruitment process.
“This is going to be something we can all be proud of for years to come,” he said. “Teamwork was key.”
Chamber President Leah Bolin, who will be coordinating the project on the Chamber side as the full-time director, said the hall of fame could be instrumental in making the county a true tourist destination.
“It means so much for Cullman, and the state, to have this type of one-of-a-kind attraction in our area,” she said. “I believe this will be a project that can propel Cullman to the next level of success in tourism.”
Hall of fame officials are ramping up a fundraising campaign now and will help pay for a portion of construction. The city will own the facility and lease it to the organization.
Bass Fishing Hall of Fame president Sammy Lee said the project represents a new era of recognition for the sport and the organization.
“For too long have the heroes of this sport gone unrecognized. Bass fishing is America, and finally the glory, the grind, the sacrifice, the grace, art, creativity and triumph of its participants will enjoy a permanent, hallowed home of celebration,” he said in a prepared statement. “I cried when the board voted to select Cullman and to fulfill the original vision of founding board member Bill Fletcher. Of all the joys I've experienced in my life, delivering this announcement ranks among the few highest. We are truly blessed to have found such a partner as Cullman. Our sport deserves the very best, and that's what we have with Cullman.”
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was also pleased with the news, noting it should be a great recreational fit for Alabama and Cullman County.
“Alabama has some of the best bass fishing in the world,” Bentley said in a prepared statement. “We’re a top destination for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. We recently launched the Alabama Bass Trail. And now, the addition of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is a natural fit for our state. We look forward to welcoming people to Cullman to visit the Hall of Fame. I appreciate everyone who worked together to make this announcement a reality.”
‰ Trent Moore may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (256) 734-2131, ext. 220.