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

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

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.

Patriot Paws/Facebook

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

It's that time of year: Houston Ballet's packed and popular Nutcracker Market will be held Thursday, November 14, through Sunday, November 17, at NRG Center with more than 100,000 shoppers expected to scoop up everything "Christmasy" that can fit under a tree, down a chimney, on a dinner table or you can put a bow on it.

About 260 merchants, including 23 rookie booths, will kick back 11 percent of their sales toward the Houston Ballet Foundation. When you add in all the admission money, thousands of Houston area students will get a valuable lesson in the arts.

As always, all roads will lead to booth 920, to the back and to the right in NRG Center, where the Donne Di Domani ladies will be selling their legendary marinara sauce for the 28th year. Donne Di Domani means "Women of Tomorrow" in Italian, or "Spaghetti Sauce Ladies" in plain English.

The sauce is still $10 a bottle, credit cards accepted. If you buy a 12-bottle case for $120, they'll throw in a dozen recipe cards guaranteed to please the family, including your uncle who comes to your house each Christmas and does nothing but complain about your cooking.

Here's why I love writing about these ladies. Sure their sauce is amazing. Consider this a warning: If you wait till Sunday to buy the sauce, you'll be the little piggy who had none. But the real story is what Donne Di Domani does with their profits — we're talking millions here. Yeah, they sell a lot of sauce.

Each year, after the market closes and they total up the profits, the ladies decide which charities they'll support. It's a long list of organizations such as Shelter for Cancer Families, Casa Juan Diego, Triumph Over Kid Cancer, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Carmelite Nuns of New Caney, and many more.

One year, when I was in the hospital getting my X-rays touched up, I heard that Sister Angel and the Carmelite Nuns said a prayer for me. Wrong church, wrong pew, but I'll take it.

Pawsing for our heroes
The charities may change, but the ladies will always support an organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families. Last year the charity was Folded Flag, which lends a hand to widows and children of soldiers killed in the line of duty.

In recent years, Donne Di Domani sponsored service dogs trained by Patriot Paws in Rockwell, Texas. I've been to Rockwell and seen how these remarkable dogs help wounded veterans get through their day. It costs $30,000 to train a dog, and the dogs are given free to vets who need them. Donne Di Domani so far has sponsored four Patriot Paws dogs:

"Hoffy," who was named after me (best honor I ever received), didn't make the grade. His mind wandered and he didn't concentrate on his studies. (The acorn sure didn't fall far from the tree.)

Continue on CultureMap to find out what happened to "Hoffy."

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome