Ironton HOF dinner planned

Published 1:25 am Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ironton Schools have always been known for standout athletes and coaches — with some legendary individuals having been part of the programs through the years — but the best of the best will soon be honored by being inducted into a newly created Hall of Fame.

Who will make the cut for the inaugural class of five inductees? Interested citizens will have to attend Saturday’s Hall of Fame dinner to find out and also get the chance to nominate their top choices from among Ironton’s greats.

The event is one part celebration of Ironton’s athletic programs, one part moneymaker and one part a way to include the fans and supporters who are so loyal to the sports they love.

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“We want this to be a nice thing with the community involved. We wanted to really provide a service while still being a fundraiser,” Ironton Athletic Director Mark LaFon said. “… It will kick off the sports season, celebrate our tradition and recognize the accomplishments and achievements of individuals from Ironton’s past.”

The dinner begins at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall. The advance ticket price is $15 for individuals and $25 for couples. The cost at the door is $20 for individuals and $30 for a couple.

Tickets are available from any Ironton sports coach, Tiger Clan member or by contacting longtime public address announcer and booster Rick McKnight at (740) 525-8011. Checks should be made payable to the Ironton H.S. Athletic Department.

The process of determining who is on this initial ballot and who is ultimately inducted as part of the inaugural class is something that LaFon and the committee created to oversee it have put a lot of thought into.

“Our No. 1 one criteria is that a person who ends up being inducted must have made significant contributions to the Ironton High School Athletic Department,” LaFon said, adding that this allows the inclusion of people other than just former players and graduates.

A hall of fame committee was formed to nominate five candidates this first year, a list that the group hopes to finalize in a meeting today. Those attending the dinner Saturday can submit their nominations and the top two will be added to the committee’s choices. So, by the end of the night Saturday, the slate of seven candidates will be set.

Over the next few months the committee will then choose the top five — the group settled on that number this year but that may change in future years — to be honored at the Ironton Shootout basketball game Jan. 26. The game will be rechristened the Hall of Fame Shootout and will be followed by another reception.

LaFon said hopes the Shootout, always slated for the last Saturday in January, will be an annual way to recognize the men and women who have contributed so much to Ironton athletics.

All honorees will have their achievements commemorated with a photo and plaque. LaFon and the committee are still looking at options to create a permanent, museum-style display that would likely be in Tanks Stadium or the Conley Center.

Sports fans love the debate of who was the best ever. Even if your top choice doesn’t make the cut this first year, they will have ample opportunity. Any finalist nominee will stay on the ballot for three years. So in 2013 the committee will only add three names to the list and the community will have a chance to add two more.

This will ensure that these individuals are the most deserving and that the selections are truly driven by the community, LaFon said.

The Hall of Fame committee will always consist of five members serving one-year terms: the school’s athletic director; one school administrator selected by the superintendent; one board of education member selected by the body’s president; one coach selected by the athletic director and one Tiger clan member selected by the group’s president. The committee will also have two community members at large who will serve two-year terms.

The current make up of the board is LaFon, superintendent Dean Nance, track coach Tim Thomas, school board member Jay Zornes, Tiger Clan member John Wolfe and citizens Tom Phillips and Linda Gagai.

All the money raised at this and other fundraiser events will go toward improving the athletic facilities. Five years ago the district passed an $18 million school bond property tax levy that was used in conjunction with $30 million in state funds to build new facilities, but those dollars cannot be used for athletics.

Athletic projects that will be the focus over the next few years include new turf at Tanks Memorial Stadium, a new hardwood floor in the Conley Sports Center and the construction of concessions, restrooms and a press box at the baseball and softball fields.

The Hall of Fame Dinner is a culmination of the Ironton High School Sports Festival set for this week.

The goal is to get people excited and pay homage to the Ironton Sports Day, a former annual event that attracted hundreds of people and big name speakers. The festival has a variety of events slated.

A mandatory OHSAA meeting for players and parents will be at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the high school auditorium. A “Meet the Tigers” rally will be on the high school lawn at 6:30.

Events start early Friday with a golf tournament at 9 a.m. at the Ironton Country Club. The fee is $200 per foursome. Anyone interested should contact Nate Kline at (740) 533-7719. The Jamboree football scrimmage at Coal Grove will begin at 7:30 p.m.

On Saturday, a 5K run/walk will begin at 9 a.m. The event will start at Ironton High School. Race day registration will start at 8 a.m. and costs $20. For more information, contact Tim Thomas at (740) 646-3669. An entry form is available in today’s Tribune or online at

Also on Saturday a craft show will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Conley Sports Center. A 10-foot-by-10-foot booth is $25. Anyone interested can contact Valerie Freeman at (740) 533-7462.

Inflatables will be available for children from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Tanks Memorial Stadium. Free Zumba classes will be at 10 a.m. in the Conley Center. A “Sweet Treat” auction will follow at 11 a.m. A “Meet the Ironton Youth Football” event will be at noon in the Conley Center.