Roy Hofheinz Isn't in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, and That's a Shame
The Dome is being left to rot as the memory of its creator fades away.
Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Did you know that Roy Hofheinz is not in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame? Did you know that Bud Adams is? And Jerry Jones? And did you know that the Hall is giving Houston Texans owner Bob McNair a lifetime achievement award for his significant and positive contributions, yet somehow Hofheinz, one of the biggest contributors to professional sports in Texas, is absent?
For readers new to Houston, here is a quick primer on Hofheinz. He was the Harris County Judge at age 24. He served in the Texas Legislature. He was the mayor of Houston from 1953 to 55 (his son Fred Hofheinz was also mayor in the 1970s). He owned a string of radio stations in the state, and he was the original owner of KTRK-TV, Channel 13.
He was also the man responsible for bringing Major League Baseball to Houston. He was the original owner of the Astros and he conceived the Astrodome. He spurred the invention of AstroTurf. He was the creator of luxury boxes (now one of the primary revenue streams for professional sports teams).
Hofheinz was the primary source of funding for what became Hofheinz Pavilion on the University of Houston campus. He also once owned the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
The Texas Sports Hall of Fame purports to recognize athletes, coaches and administrators who have brought lasting fame and honor to Texas sports. That makes it sound as if team owners were not meant to be included. Yet there are owners, like Lamar Hunt, Clint Murchison Jr., Adams and Jones, in the Hall. There are also sportswriters and broadcasters.
Lamar Hunt is perhaps the gold standard by which Hofheinz should be measured. Hunt was a founder of the AFL and his family still runs and owns the Kansas City Chiefs (originally the Dallas Texans). Hunt also founded the original version of the North American Soccer League and was then a backer of MLS, owning several teams. He was one of the original owners of the Chicago Bulls.
It was Hunt who ensured the AFL's survival by negotiating a national television contract in which all of the teams received even splits of the revenue — the model the NFL still follows. Hunt was the key negotiator for the AFL in its merger talks with the NFL, and is credited with naming the sport's championship the Super Bowl.
It makes sense Hunt is in the Hall. It also makes sense that Adams (who was also one of the AFL's founders) is included. Murchison is also logical in that he was one of the original owners of the Cowboys, who thanks to ineptitude on the part of the Oilers and the Texans have become the team of the state. But Hofheinz's pedigree seems to be on par with all of them. So his omission from the Hall of Fame seems puzzling.
It's even more puzzling given that Bob McNair is being inducted as a winner of the Lamar Hunt Lifetime Achievement Award, which was established to honor those of special acclaim who were influential in enhancing Texas sports. It's understandable that the Hall of Fame might not want to give a life achievement award to a man who has been dead since the 1980s, but it seems strange that the Hall can give McNair an award named for one of the most visionary minds in professional sports while failing ever to reward a man like Roy Hofheinz.
The Hofheinz name is being removed from the UH basketball arena, which after a remodel will be known as Fertitta Center. AstroWorld, the amusement park founded by Hofheinz, was demolished years ago. And his crowning achievement, the Astrodome, still stands despite the best efforts of RodeoHouston and the Texans to get it torn down while Harris County officials attempt to find a final plan for renovation.
So maybe this is just tilting at windmills, and at some point Hofheinz declined an induction into the Hall. Perhaps there has been a change in the rules so that team owners/visionaries can no longer be nominated. But seeing Jerry Jones and Bud Adams as inductees and seeing that Drayton McLane and Bob McNair have been awarded for lifetime achievements, there should be some way that the Texas Sports Hall of Fame can honor Roy Hofheinz.