VSHF’s first regional exhibit will debut in 2024, highlight local inductees
The Henrico Sports & Events Center will house the first regional exhibit of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of exceptional athletes, coaches, media representatives and others across the commonwealth.
Scheduled to open in spring 2024, the permanent exhibit initially will feature the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024 as well as previous inductees with connections to central Virginia. Executive Director Will Driscoll announced plans for the exhibit Saturday as the Hall inducted its Class of 2023 in Virginia Beach.
“The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame and its Board of Directors are thrilled to partner with Henrico County and the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority to establish a regional exhibit at the Henrico Sports & Events Center,” Driscoll said. “One of the Hall’s priorities has been to increase its visibility and outreach throughout the state. The Henrico Sports & Events Center is a natural place to start, as more than 100 of our inductees have a connection to central Virginia. We hope this exhibit will help make the Henrico Sports & Events Center a destination for residents and visitors and will allow the Hall to reach a broader audience as we celebrate the past, present and future of sports in Virginia.”
The idea of helping the Hall establish a presence in central Virginia has been discussed for years, but it gained momentum as construction progressed on the Henrico Sports & Events Center, said Dennis Bickmeier, executive director of the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority, which manages the facility. Bickmeier credited Tom Yeager, a part-time consultant for the authority who also serves on the Hall’s Board of Directors. Yeager was inducted into the Hall in 2019 after having served 31 years as commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association, which is headquartered in Henrico.
The Henrico exhibit is expected to consist of four illuminated displays measuring 8 feet wide and 7½ feet tall. The wooden cases will be constructed this summer by students in the Workforce & Career Development program of Henrico County Public Schools.
“Henrico County is a perfect fit for an expansion of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame because we have a vibrant sports history – from Sam Snead winning the 1949 PGA championship at Belmont Golf Course and Richmond Raceway’s emergence as a premier track of NASCAR to scores of outstanding athletes,” Bickmeier said. “We are excited that the Henrico Sports & Events Center will be a place to showcase this history just as we bring in the next generation of athletes to compete and create memories that will last a lifetime.”
The Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, based in Virginia Beach, has inducted 354 members since 1972. Its honorees include former NFL players Barty Smith and Kenneth Willard as well as former MLB player Gene Alley; each excelled athletically while attending high school in Henrico. Others who could be highlighted in the Henrico exhibit include University of Virginia basketball standout Ralph Sampson, tennis champion and civil rights activist Arthur Ashe Jr. and Pro Football Hall of Famers Bruce Smith and Lawrence Taylor.
The Henrico Sports & Events Center is under construction and expected to open this fall at Virginia Center Commons, just off Interstate 95 in northcentral Henrico. The 185,000-square-foot facility is designed to host basketball and volleyball tournaments and other athletic events as well as graduations, concerts and other gatherings. The $50 million building is being developed through a partnership between the county and Rebkee Co., which is redeveloping the former Virginia Center Commons mall property with housing, retail and other uses.