Tracey Kinsella has been on the job for less than a year, but what a year it has been.
Early in her tenure as executive director of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, Kinsella is facing unprecedented times.
On top of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the doors closed during one of the attraction’s busiest times of the year, it has also left them wondering how much longer they’ll be able to continue curating the history of sport in the province.
Typically, in late March, the museum gets a boost of $302,000 from the provincial government, which helps fund the operation of the facility.
Along with fundraisers such as their annual induction banquet and golf tournament, they tend to operate on a break-even basis.
With a new provincial government and a new budget passed shortly before the pandemic started, no money has arrived and few answers have been provided about when, or if, it will come.
Which means, for now, it is all up in the air.
“(It’s been) extremely difficult. We had a big spring planned for the museum. Typically, May and June are busy with our education programs and our school bookings.
“Now, we don’t have that, either,” Kinsella said, adding they had to postpone their annual banquet and are uncertain about their golf tournament.
“We’ve had no funding commitment and no contract since March 31. There has been funding since the doors opened.”
Kinsella said a letter was sent to Culture Minister Leela Aheer in early April, on behalf of close to 150 provincial sports organizations, including the hall of fame.
Kinsella said she understands that with the pandemic threatening public health, combating the virus needs to be a priority for the government.
Yet, she still believes sports continue to play a vital role in our society.
While the museum isn’t directly involved in the coaching or teaching aspects of sport, Kinsella says it plays a vital role in preserving the history of what is a unique part of Alberta’s history.
“Creating and curating the sports history is critical. We all know the advantages of sport and healthy living in our everyday life. You can’t lose that history, and that’s the critical role that museums play,” she said.
While it’s been tough these past few months, Kinsella and her small team have tried to stay positive throughout it all.
Museums were included in the first phase of Alberta’s relaunch, but the attraction decided not to open. With so many touch points and interactions in the building, they wanted to make sure they were ready before the public comes back.
She said they’re aiming for the first week of July, hoping to take advantage of what’s left of the summer.
“We’re just getting through. We’re working on a relaunch. Right now, we’re just working hard. We are carrying on like we are going to continue to carry on for the next 20 years,” she said.
“We’re engaging with our honoured members, with some sponsors and we’re not giving in.”