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Patriots museum will have pizzazz

    05/20/2007

Imagine your child's Pop Warner jersey enshrined in the same building as the Patriots' three Vince Lombardi trophies or your high school's receiving records archived with the legendary Gino Cappelletti's.

If that's your idea of fantasy football, it could be reality by the fall of 2008 , when the Hall at Patriot Place , the Patriots' new football museum, opens as part of a massive retail-entertainment complex the Kraft family is building around Gillette Stadium. Conceived as a way to honor New England Patriots legends, the idea has evolved into a living history of New England football, from the youth leagues to the Super Bowl.

In the process, the Krafts and local design firm Cambridge Seven Associates Inc. , are building a facility that follows a trend in designing museums with interactive exhibits rather than just statues and photos. That may be exactly what the team needs to keep in line with modern institutions such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience in Seattle or the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, said Richard Johnson , curator of The Sports Museum in Boston, which houses exhibits about New England sports history.

"Any museum these days has to look at what the competition is doing," said Johnson. "What's really pushed the envelope the past 20 or so years has been the Disney approach to things," in which technology allows visitors to get involved with the exhibits.

The Kraft family has wanted to build a Patriots museum since it bought the team in 1994, but other projects, like building Gillette Stadium, took precedence, said Patriots spokesman Stacey James. Once the family focused on a museum, there was another issue: how do you create one for a team that doesn't have a long history?

The Patriots were formed in 1959 , 26 years after the Pittsburgh Steelers and 40 years after the Green Bay Packers , two other National Football League teams that already have museums.

"We don't have the depth of history and artifacts where we could create a shrine that you just had to see before you die," James said. "We needed to do something that's video-based, that's digital, that can change and be updated."

The facility's design is not finalized, but plans are for the $15 million museum to be three stories tall, including a grand hall with walls that have digital images from Patriots history projected onto them, and soaring ceilings to make those images appear even more dramatic.

A 150-seat theater with a 45-foot screen will play films of some of the greatest Patriots' moments. A clubhouse area will have lounge chairs, and when you sit in them, you'll be able to hear the recorded voice of a team player telling you a football story. Plans also call for a special section for honoring young football champions. And throughout the museum, local fans will have a chance to donate their own pieces of New England football history for display, whether it is a jersey or a pair of cleats.

In the Hall of Fame section, the team's 11 inductees will be honored; a stage for induction ceremonies and performances will be nearby. The area will also feature four pylons standing 30 feet high and 6 feet wide that will display digital pictures and movies of the team's all-time greats, at visitors' request.

 By Keith Reed, Globe Staff  |  May 20, 2007

© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.