HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: What is next for the Hall of Fame?

Hakeem Olajuwon is one of three in the Houston Hall. Who is next? Photo by Tim DeFrisco/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

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Think of it as one giant first step for Houston. Honestly, three of them.

Yes, we’re talking about the new Houston Sports Hall of Fame, which will start with a Walk of Fame that stretches from the House of Blues through the GreenStreet Promenade.

It’s a bold and long overdue idea that has Houston buzzing.

Who should be in? Who shouldn’t? How many in each class? What do we do with the pioneers like Judge Roy Hofheinz? Jack Burke, Jr., and Jimmy Demaret? Jess Neely?

So many questions. A lot of time left to ponder and eventually answer them.

But right now it’s back to those steps.

What we know for sure is those first honorees are the Legendary 34s – Nolan Ryan, Earl Campbell and Hakeem Olajuwon. It doesn’t get much better than those three, who were all under the same roof at the same event for the first time ever last Thursday at the Houston Sports Awards.

This summer we will get a glimpse of phase one of that Hall, which was announced at the Houston Sports Awards. The renderings show plaques along the middle of the sidewalk honoring the inductees and those first three plaques will belong to Nolan, Earl and Hakeem. Their plaques will each have their signatures and will get a lot of foot traffic from GreenStreet shops and restaurants, which is a neutral site. In other words, it is not tied to one of Houston’s major sports teams.

The Walk will grow from there.

Plans for future phases include state-of-the-art LED video displays and interactive experiences. The last phase will be a brick-and-mortar interior space where reknown Houston artist Opie Otterstad’s 8-foot high paintings of the 34s will be displayed.

“The Houston Sports Awards had been a dream of mine for more than a decade, and to end that incredible night with the announcement of the Houston Sports Hall of Fame, made that dream even bigger,’’ said Harris County - Houston Sports Authority CEO Janis Burke.

“This is something all of Houston will celebrate and is long overdue. So many great athletes have come from here and have played here, and to celebrate and honor them with a Hall of Fame is something bigger than all of us, and will outlast us all.’’

She, too, couldn’t have dreamed of a better inaugural class, calling the 34s “easily three of the most revered athletes ever to play in their respective sports and we couldn’t be prouder to honor them as our first inductees.”

The Harris County - Houston Sports Authority is partnering with Midway and Lionstone on the project.

Brad Freels, Chairman of Midway, called the renderings of the project “an inspiring vision for the Houston Sports Hall of Fame in GreenStreet. We look forward to welcoming our neighbors and visitors from around the world to this new attraction honoring the spirit, dedication and courage of our hometown sports heroes.

 “With the opening of Hotel Alessandra, downtown’s acclaimed boutique luxury hotel, and a thoroughly re-imagined three city-block urban mixed-use campus of GreenStreet, Midway and Lionstone Investments are creating a unique experience that celebrates the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial energy of Houston unlike any other place.”

It will also be a place where Houstonians can celebrate some of the best athletes to play in the city and give visitors a chance to experience a little about some Hall of Famers they may only know by name.

And Houstonians? We’ll spend much of the next few months debating who will be honored at next year’s Houston Sports awards and just who should be honored in that second 2019 HOF Class.

Should Houston look at Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell? Hakeem’s Phi Slama Jama and Rockets buddy Clyde Drexler? A pioneer or two?

For the time being, just keep the buzz going. We’ll know soon enough who will follow in the footsteps – and plaques on the Walk -- of three of the best Houston has ever seen.

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