The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame will its first induction ceremony at its new home in the Save Mart Center. Photo by Ben Hensley.
Written by Ben Hensley
The Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony will take place Sept. 21, and for the first time will feature its very own designated space, located inside the Save Mart Center on campus at Fresno State.
The Hall of Fame has been in existence since 1959. Originally founded by Fresno businessman John Voenes and Fresno Bee sports editor Ed Orman, the Hall aims to bring awareness to the athletic history of the Central Valley, honoring past Fresno State and Fresno City College athletes, as well as past Olympians and others with footprints in the athletic community in the Valley.
But having a list of names wasn’t the only dream of the organization — they have always wanted a place to call their own home.
The Save Mart Center, along with Fresno State, has given the organization the opportunity to do just that.
“There’s always been this dream of an actual Hall of Fame,” said past Hall of Fame President and project chairperson Walt Byrd Jr. “We decided that we’re going to realize this dream.”
Since partnering with Fresno State and launching a capital campaign in 2015, the organization has raised nearly $1.5 million towards creating a permanent home. Led by notable donors including Producers Dairy, Pardini’s, DeWayne Zinkin and Bill Smittcamp, the organization has seen more than 130 donors and sponsors for the project.
The Hall, located in the southwest corner of the Save Mart Center, provides more than 1,900 square feet of floor space, with tall ceilings and wall space for over 20 digital interactive displays as well as an overhead circular video display.
The interactive displays will hopefully attract not only fans, but also students interested in potentially attending Fresno State and learning the history of Fresno County athletics.
“The idea is to bring students to our Hall of Fame to learn about who these people were and the stories of their character,” Byrd said. “We think this is a valuable opportunity for kids to learn about the legacy and the history of this county.”
The hall plans to be open during all athletic events scheduled at the Save Mart Center, as well as being available for special events that can be scheduled in the building.
Currently the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame has 345 inductees, as well as 26 team inductees.
“Many of those teams and many of those individuals are affiliated somehow with Fresno State,” Byrd said. “It seemed logical that the Save Mart Center would be our home.”
The ceremony will honor past inductees, as well as this year’s induction class of volleyball coach Marian Battles, heavyweight boxer Mac Foster, women’s basketball player Connie Gooch, golfer Kathleen McCarthy, and recently retired former Fresno City College baseball coach Ron Scott.
In addition to the individuals inducted, two teams, the 1974-76 Hoover High School Women’s Basketball Champions and 1955 Fresno Cardinals will be honored at the ceremony.
Tickets to this year’s event are available for $75 per person or $1,000 for a full table sponsorship. Past inductees can attend free and past team inductees are welcome to attend for $60.
The grand opening will be held in the new Hall of Fame at the Save Mart Center on Wednesday, Sept. 21 starting at 5 p.m.