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Front Page » Top Stories » Heavyweights plan sports champions hall

Heavyweights plan sports champions hall

Written by on April 9, 2014

The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce’s Sports Committee is working with Miami-Dade County as well as with HistoryMiami to open a Sports Hall of Champions facility. 

In the past 20 years, the chamber has inducted about 100 sports figures into its Sports Hall of Champions program, said Jeff Bartel, committee chairman and managing director of the Hamptons Group. Now, he said, the chamber wants to establish a physical space housing the program’s memorabilia, such as jerseys, plaques and photos.

Plans are to establish a display at Miami International Airport to give visitors a taste of South Florida’s sports culture and a more comprehensive exhibit elsewhere.

But where the latter could be located, a ballpark figure of how much it could cost and a funding source aren’t yet known, Mr. Bartel said. Also to be determined: a funding source for a “sustained operating model.”

“The chamber isn’t a funding organization,” he said. “We want to facilitate this.… We’re going to need to identify community organizations and donors who will help establish the physical space.”

HistoryMiami CEO and President Ramiro Ortiz said the exhibit could be located at the organization’s downtown space, but “it’s all very preliminary.”

HistoryMiami collects and preserves South Florida’s history and apart from a museum, it includes programs such as city tours and an archives and research center.

Mr. Ortiz said HistoryMiami is “the logical” organization to work with the chamber on a permanent Sports Hall of Champions.

Sports, Mr. Bartel said, “has been an integral part of South Florida’s history.”

“There’s hardly a day that goes by in South Florida that sports isn’t on the hearts and minds of our residents and our visitors,” Mr. Bartel said, “from professional teams like the [Miami] Heat, to the Sony Open, to the Homestead-Miami Speedway, to the Miami Marathon.”

Aside from the Miami Heat, South Florida is also home to professional sports teams such as the Miami Marlins, the Miami Dolphins and the Florida Panthers.

The Greater Miami Chamber, an economic-development organization, commissioned a study years ago that said sports directly and indirectly comprise 5% to 10% of South Florida’s gross domestic product, or GDP, Mr. Bartel said.

“Whether that’s professional teams, college, high school, community-based organizations … sports in South Florida is an economic engine,” Mr. Bartel said.

Since 1993, the chamber has inducted about 100 sports figures into its Sports Hall of Champions program. To be considered, a person must have had gained or maintained fame in sports as a player, coach or executive; contributed to the betterment of South Florida’s sports community; and be either South Florida-born or participated in sports in the area and achieved recognition in the community, according to Cornelia Pereira, chamber executive vice president.

Inductees include former professional boxer Muhammad Ali, his cornerman Angelo Dundee, and former college basketball player and professional basketball coach Ron Rothstein, according to the chamber.

“It’s not like it’s targeting specifically high school, college or professional” sports figures, Mr. Bartel said of the Sports Hall of Champions program. It’s “sports figures that have made a significant contribution to the South Florida sports landscaping, whether that’s professional, collegiate or other.”

Mr. Bartel said he hopes the chamber will announce more details about the Sports Hall of Champions facility at an induction ceremony this year.