By Greg Burke
Natchitoches Parish residents no doubt take immense pride in home grown athletes and others who made their mark in the parish. The long list of those who have been recognized for their accomplishments through induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame includes Joe Dumars, Charlie Tolar, Joe Delaney, Jackie Smith, Bobby Hebert, Gary Reasons, Coach Walter Ledet, Mark Duper, Alana Beard and many more.
For years, the only point of recognition for those honorees was in trophy cases at Northwestern State University’s Prather Coliseum. In 2013, recognition of Louisiana’s greatest athletes took a monumental step forward with construction of the state-funded 27,000 square foot Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum in Natchitoches’ downtown historic district.
In addition to being open to visitors and for group tours, the museum has hosted events such as the recent 50th anniversary commemoration of singer Jim Croce’s untimely death after performing at NSU, wedding receptions and rehearsal dinners, meetings, and other functions.
The first-ever Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame “Join the Team” membership drive – which research shows is standard for most hall of fame museums – has been initiated to secure resources which can be used to update and upgrade the museum. State funding underwrites basic operating costs for the museum but there are often inadequate funds to enhance the museum, especially in this age of “bells and whistles” (aka “technology”). Log on to LaSportsHall.com and click the “Join the Team” button or text LSHOFTEAM to 41444 to “Join the Team.” Checks can be mailed to 500 Front Street, Natchitoches, LA 71457.
While today’s technology comes at a cost, the “asking price” for Hall of Fame membership can be as little as $10 per month. Member benefits include official Hall of Fame team member gear, the opportunity to win monthly drawings, discounts on merchandise and other amenities. 2023 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductees Alana Beard – Shreveport (Southwood High School), Duke University, and 15-year WNBA standout – along with two-time LSU national champion and 14-year Major League Baseball pitcher Paul Byrd, are Honorary Co-Chairs of the inaugural membership campaign.
And if that isn’t attractive enough, members who sign up by December 31 of this year will be entered in a January 1 drawing for the “Ultimate 2024 Hall of Fame Weekend Experience,” which includes two tickets to all induction weekend events, a photo with your favorite 2024 Hall of Famer (Drew Brees…Seimone Agustus…Daniel Cormier…or another inductee…your choice!) and exclusive access to some events. The value of that package is close to $1,000!
The initial goal is a very conservative and surely attainable 100 members. This museum is our state’s pride and joy, a legacy locker room for its greatest athletes that celebrates excellence from all 64 parishes, from Ida to Grand Isle, from Lake Providence to Lake Charles. Statewide ownership will ensure that just as Louisiana athletes are among the best from coast to coast, the same can always be said about its Sports Hall of Fame Museum.
Greg Burke is Director of Business Development and Public Relations for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation. He was formerly Director of Athletics at Northwestern State University for 26 years. Burke can be contacted at email@example.com