About the Hall of Fame
A half-century after inducting its first class of sports legends, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is realizing its fondest dreams and greatest aspirations.
The Louisiana State Museum system is nearing completion of construction on a 27,500-square foot museum building on Front Street in the National Historic District of Natchitoches.
Trahan Architects of Baton Rouge have designed the museum building. Thinc Design of New York City developed the exhibits plan. Construction began in 2008-09 with site demolition and preparation, continued with utility relocation and drainage work along with the pilings and foundation work, and resumed in June 2010 with construction of the actual building. The construction could be completed by August with the potential for opening likely in late fall or winter of 2012-13.
The Hall of Fame itself will occupy the first floor of the new museum, with the second floor showcasing Louisiana's Sports Paradise, a blend of sports history and culture, along with half of the second floor housing the Northwest Louisiana Regional History Museum, now the state-run Old Courthouse Museum in Natchitoches.
Members of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association began planning a Hall of Fame to honor the state's outstanding athletes and coaches as far back as 1951, but the first election to the hall was not held until 1958.
The three charter members of the organization -- Gaynell Tinsley, Tony Canzoneri and Mel Ott -- were inducted during the Ark-La-Tex Sports Award Banquet in Shreveport in 1959.
Three honorees were selected annually for several years and were inducted during the Shreveport banquet. Later inductions were held in different areas of the state, including Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Several members of the Hall of Fame were inducted at LSU football games and televised basketball games, and others were taken into the shrine during the VFW Sports Awards Banquets in New Orleans.
Although LSWA members presented plaques to 41 Hall of Fame honorees and conducted induction ceremonies for the shrine members each year, there was never an actual Hall of Fame in the state until the facility was established at Northwestern State in Natchitoches in 1972 by co-chairmen Jerry Pierce and Jim McLain, with the support of NSU President Dr. Arnold Kilpatrick.
Portraits of a few of the members were placed in Shreveport for a brief period, but the establishment of the Hall of Fame at Prather Coliseum was the first formal inauguration of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Following the 2012 inductions, 252 members will have entered the shrine since the Hall of Fame was opened in Natchitoches.
The LSWA's dream of developing a true museum that showcases not only the art and artifacts, but provides a captivating experience for visitors and repository for state sports history, is becoming reality.
From 2000-2002, the Hall of Fame induction activities shifted to Shreveport-Bossier City, due in large part to the support of mayors Keith Hightower and George Dement, administrative officers Ken Antee and now Bossier City Mayor Lorenz Walker, local businessman Jimmy Patterson and the Horseshoe Casino & Hotel. Hall of Fame member Joe Profit and Mitton Management Co. played important roles in the success of the three-year stint in Shreveport-Bossier.
The expansion of Hall of Fame induction activities drew attention from then-Gov. Mike Foster, then-Lt. Gov. and then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, and other state officials. Their interest, along with leadership by Natchitoches Mayor Wayne McCullen, then state Rep. “Coach” Billy Montgomery and former local legislators state Rep. Taylor Townsend and state Sen. Mike Smith, combined with the continuing support provided by Northwestern State University, led to quantum leaps forward for the Hall.
The Hall of Fame was accepted into the state museum system in the 2003 state legislative session, setting the stage for the state and city of Natchitoches to collaborate with the LSWA to develop the new museum.
In preparation for the beginning of the project, all of the artwork and memorabilia which was on display at Northwestern's Prather Coliseum was turned over to the state museum system after the 2005 induction celebration.
Today's local and state government leaders have played crucial roles in advancing the project. Mayor McCullen and city officials, local legislators Sen. Gerald Long and former Rep. Rick Nowlin have partnered with Gov. Bobby Jindal, recently departed Lt. Gov. Landrieu and legislators around the state to assure a sparkling future for the museum. Recently elected Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has demonstrated his strong support of the project.
The Louisiana State Museum system is providing dynamic vision and careful stewardship as the Hall of Fame's dreams become reality.
The current Hall of Fame collection includes color portraits of the 285 members and a continually growing collection of items such as baseballs, footballs, bats, gloves, jerseys, golf clubs, helmets, shoes, and other memorabilia contributed to the shrine by Hall of Fame members and their families. It also includes the Grits and Mary Gresham Collection showcasing hunting, fishing and the outdoors. Items representative of major events in state sports history, such as the 2007 LSU football national championship and the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl XIV title, have also been donated to the Hall.
Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame | 500 Front Street | Natchitoches, LA 71497