BUSINESS & ECONOMY

NJ Hall of Fame finds a new home at the American Dream complex

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

The New Jersey Hall of Fame mobile museum has been all across the state with the help of Les Gibbs. He’s been driving it for years to get to schools and outdoor events.

The stories of Christopher Reeve, Michael Douglas, Milt Campbell, Queen Latifah and many more are going to continue to stay on the road, but now they will also be getting a permanent home.

“We’re going to be building a state of the art museum, complete with a Jersey pride movie theater, a hologram theater, a laser show of some of our Jersey musical icons, and even a virtual reality theater that’s going to allow people to take off to the moon,” said Steve Edwards, president of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

The 16,000-square-foot space will be at the American Dream complex at the Meadowlands. Edwards says they’ve signed a 45-year lease.

“Hopefully those role models will remind them to chase their own dreams,” Edwards said. “Scientists, teachers, business people, and all together 170 inductees over the past 10 years. In order to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, you have to have lived here for a minimum of five years. You don’t have to be born here. As a matter of fact, there are people like Paul Simon who was born here but moved out three weeks later. We don’t think that’s necessarily a favorite son, as brilliant as Paul Simon is. We don’t think that’s strict enough criteria. On the flip side, someone like Tony Bennett, who is born somewhere else, chose New Jersey as his home to raise his family and spent 30 years here. We inducted him back in 2011.”

As people walk around the mobile museum, there are more than artifacts, like Bon Jovi’s jacket, but also interactive technology. There’s a station where you can pick up a phone, click a county and listen to different induction speeches.

“You can hear Bon Jovi talking about what New Jersey means to him,” Edwards said. “Children want to see the real thing. It’s very interactive and immersive. In that regard, our signature artifact, so to speak, is going to be holograms of our living inductees and they’re going to give advice to children.”

Al Leiter said it was always his dream to play in the big leagues and he never gave up.

“I had a couple shoulder surgeries and I went back to college and got my degree and thought I was done and didn’t think I’d ever pitch again,” he said. “No matter what anybody says, that you can’t do it, you can do it. I believe it, and I got to play 13 more years.”

Leiter was inducted into the New Jersey hall of fame this year. His story will be on display in the new space, but Gibbs will also keep touring it in what’s known as the field trip on wheels.