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The push for a hall of fame honoring Kentucky’s storied high school basketball players reached the steps of Elizabethtown City Hall with the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches asking the city Monday to partner and invest in the project by providing a suitable host site downtown.
The request came just days after the KABC publicly announced its interest in Elizabethtown as the location for the hall of fame, which would honor high school male and female players and coaches who have helped mold the game since 1918.
Elizabethtown was one of more than a dozen sites selected for review and letters of inquiry were sent to governments and chambers of commerce seeking input and probing interest.
Ken Trivette, executive director of the KABC, said the organization is deliberately avoiding Lexington and Louisville because smaller cities better capture the heritage high school basketball has given to Kentucky.
Furthermore, Trivette told the council that Elizabethtown is the quintessential location to host the hall of fame because of the community's enthusiasm and support for the concept and the sport.
Gary West, an Elizabethtown native and KABC volunteer, said the project could be the cornerstone needed to revamp downtown. Although the hall of fame would not be a destination museum attracting thousands, West said, it would add another layer to the city’s tourism package. He suggested it could be marketed alongside attractions such as the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia and the Historic State Theater.
During the meeting, Mayor Tim Walker presented a plan to the council in which the city would emerge as the developer of downtown. Walker said the city would develop a comprehensive plan to redefine the look and identity of downtown.
Included in the proposal was creation of a working group composed of numerous local agencies as well as development of a downtown development plan to evaluate needed infrastructure improvements, targeted property acquisitions, parking design and incentive programs to name a few.
The proposal also directs the city to look for funding streams for downtown improvements, determine appropriate sites for restaurants and prioritize public street improvements.
While a specific building was not discussed for the hall of fame, Trivette said the it likely would need 3,000- to 4,000-square feet of operating space with the capacity to house a theater, where the KABC could provide visual presentations of high school basketball’s history in Kentucky as well as videos on the evolution of the game.
Trivette said the hall of fame would heavily employ modern technology to tell the stories of players and coaches inducted. He thinks it will require less space than a traditional museum where pieces and memorabilia must be displayed on walls or shelves.
“You don’t want to give them too much, but you want to give them the right things,” he said.
Ideally, Trivette said he would like to see a walk of fame established near the site to honor each inductee and draw more interest.
The KABC envisions a mobile educational component that would promote basketball and Elizabethtown at games and high school sporting events.
“Basketball is a means by which we can promote the whole state of Kentucky,” Trivette said.
A selection committee of nine lifetime appointees has been formed to deliberate and vote on the inductees and Trivette expects the first 16 honorees to be determined by early May. Ultimately, the committee will choose 16 honorees annually in hopes to reach the 100th inductee by 2018, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the creation of a state basketball championship. The entire group will form the inaugural class.
The identity of committee members will remain secret. Trivette said the lifetime appointment and anonymity of committee members will ensure that players and coaches are chosen based on achievements rather than their connections.
“We want as little politics as we can have in it,” he said.
Trivette also said the committee will research the inductees thoroughly to include the “best of the best,” making certain to honor players and coaches from the earliest decades of the sport, some of whom played for schools and teams now defunct.
To make the project plausible, the KABC plans to seek funding from numerous sources, including corporate sponsors and government aid. Trivette said corporate aid should cover most of the infrastructure and maintenance needed.
Trivette said organizers have approached several corporations with the proposal but have placed them on standby until the host city was selected and a site arranged.
West said the hall of fame can generate revenue by hosting hall of fame games before each season and raising money with induction dinners. Also, the hall of fame could pursue endowments once formed.
Eventually, the KABC would separate from the hall of fame, Trivette said, creating an independent entity with its own operating budget.
The council expressed interest in partnering with the KABC and asked Mayor Tim Walker to develop some options for review.
Rik Hawkins, interim executive director of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, said the project is too intriguing to pass up and can bolster Elizabethtown’s profile in the state. The hall of fame also could take advantage of renewed interest in downtown, Hawkins added.
“The bones are (beginning) to have meat on them,” Hawkins said.
Trivette said the project could be mutually beneficial.
“I think we can grow together,” he said. “I think it could be a beautiful thing.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.