The long-planned Gary Sports Hall of Fame is coming soon to Indiana University Northwest.
University of Iowa football legend Earl Smith Jr., Gary Chamber of Commerce President Chuck Hughes and other board members reached an agreement with Indiana University to locate the Gary Sports Hall of Fame in the new Arts and Sciences Building on Broadway. It will be on the first floor of the prominently located and heavily trafficked academic building, where IUN and Ivy Tech share space.
"It's a hall of fame for athletes and coaches," Hughes said.
Smith, a prep star in football, basketball and track and field at Gary Roosevelt who went on to lead the Big Ten with 11 touchdowns and 66 points in 1954 at the University of Iowa, has been working on the project for about seven years.
"This is something that's been earmarked for Gary," he said. "We just needed a location. This is a great spot for it."
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The Gary Sports Hall of Fame board includes retired state Sen. Earline Rogers, Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Famer Al Hamnik and longtime Chicago Tribune sports columnist Fred Mitchell. They've long been planning the Gary Sports Hall of Fame, which will be similar to the Hammond Sports Hall of Fame in the Hammond Civic Center and the Gary Hall of Fame in the downtown Gary Public Library.
"We've made some great progress," Smith said. "We're going to embark on the first class of 10 inductees. We're going to get nominations from current board members generated by the fans."
The Gary Sports Hall of Fame will honor athletes, coaches, trainers and anyone from Gary who made a big impact athletically. Smith said athletes from the pros to the prep level will be honored. New classes will be enshrined annually.
"We'll highlight each individual with a plaque," he said. "There are so many great athletes that came from Gary, including Olympians and Hall of Famers. The kids don't know anything about it. We see this as being eye-opening and creating more knowledge and understanding about athletic achievement in the city of Gary."
Smith himself has been inducted into three different athletic halls of fame and said it's a great honor for any athlete. Now 87 years old, Smith would like to see other athletes have the same opportunity for recognition for athletic prowess and their careers on the court or field.
"I was blessed with talent and thank the University of Iowa and the Good Lord," he said. "It's a great accolade to have."
An announcement with more details will be made at a press conference, likely in the next few weeks, Smith said.