The Kansas Sports Museum, which has been up and running at its new home in Newton since Jan 4, will have its grand opening celebration this weekend.

Museum manager Harold Bechard said traffic to the museum at the southwest corner of Chisholm Trail Outlet and Retail Shops has been about what was expected for January.

He didn’t have an exact figure for the number of visitors the museum has seen, but he said it’s been in the ballpark of about 20 paying visitors per day.

“It kind of correlates to businesses after Christmas,” Bechard said. “It’s slower than probably it would have been in December or even November, but we’re happy to get the doors open and to get the word out that the Kansas Sports Museum is open and ready for business.”

The museum’s ribbon cutting is Friday with a grand opening celebration Saturday and Sunday.

As part of the celebration, Bechard and Kansas Sports Hall of Fame CEO Ted Hayes have invited all the living Hall of Fame inductees to visit the museum this weekend.

They don’t know who will show up, but plan on at least a few hall of famers stopping by.

“Typically, we’ll get some (inductees) that will show up,” Hayes said.

One of the confirmed guests to the museum this weekend is the new University of Kansas head football coach, Turner Gill. Gill is expected to greet fans and speak at the museum from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Bechard, who was previously the sports editor of the Hutchinson News before starting work at the museum, said he was able use his contacts at KU to extend the invitation to Gill.

He also said it helps that Gill coaches football instead of basketball and has time to spare in January.

“We just thought it might be attractive for the fact that (Gill) hasn’t been to the central part of the state,” Bechard said.

Before making headlines as the new football coach at KU, Gill was best known for his accomplishments as a college player at the University of Nebraska in the early 1980s. He was the starting quarterback for the Cornhuskers from 1981 to 1983, earning three Big Eight Conference championships, three Orange Bowl bids and a selection as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 1983.

Before arriving at KU, Gill was the head coach at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, NY.

Bechard said it is a priority of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame to host special events at the museum, featuring coaches and hall of fame inductees.

One of the most popular exhibits at the museum is the wall of Sports Illustrated magazines, with Kansas connections on the covers.

“People really like that,” Bechard said of the magazines.

Another popular addition to the museum is the three big screen televisions, which show games and highlights, as well as movies and documentaries on sports.

Currently, Bechard said they’ve been showing a documentary about the history of basketball and the 2008 college basketball national championship game, won by KU over the University of Memphis.

While the majority of sports memorabilia will be displayed at the museum in Newton, the headquarters for the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame will be at The Boathouse on the bank of the Arkansas River near downtown Wichita.

The Boathouse will be the home to the 190 plaques, commemorating each member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

The Boathouse is under an extensive renovation until June.

“They’re getting it restored to its state of beauty,” Hayes said.

He said he’s confident the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame can do well with the separation of the museum and the hall’s headquarters.

Hayes said both facilities are in prime locations.

He pointed out each spot could attract visitors in different ways.

“One is obviously the sports history and the high school and college passion that people in the state of Kansas really have, can be satisfied a great deal by the museum that we’re offering here,” Hayes said.

“The Boathouse in itself, just the location of it on the river as a gathering place has a great deal of appeal.”

He added the dual-location operation allows for expansion and increased exposure.

The grand opening of the museum is one of the first steps for the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame’s growth in 2010.

“It’s an exciting time for us to get this museum open and off and rolling,” Hayes said.

The Kansas Sports Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; and 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

For further information, visit the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Web site at www.kshof.org or call the museum at 262-2038.