International Women's Sports Center to open in NYC

Updated: October 17, 2006, 9:29 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Brandi Chastain's Olympic soccer jersey will be there. So will Sasha Cohen's figure skates from the Torino Games.

Sports fans will have a place to view Wimbledon trophies and learn about past and present female athletes and coaches at the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center.

It's being billed as the first hall of fame dedicated to women's sports, and plans for the center were unveiled Tuesday at the future site of the National Sports Museum in lower Manhattan.

The $93 million museum is expected to open, along with the center, in the spring of 2008.

"My hope is that all people -- girls, boys, coaches, teachers, parents and aspiring athletes -- who pass through these doors will be empowered by what they see and what they experience," King said.

Martina Navratilova, Julie Foudy and Joe Frazier joined King at the museum site, located in the landmark Standard Oil building just four blocks from Ground Zero.

The National Sports Museum and the Women's Sports Foundation -- founded by King -- are collaborating to create the center. It will showcase the foundation's 110 International Hall of Fame inductees, who have been honored since 1980, and will offer interactive exhibits and sport-specific multimedia displays.

"We've always wanted a place where we can honor Billie Jean's legacy and also share the story of the Women's Sports Foundation," said foundation chairwoman Ilana Kloss. "It's really about using it to create more opportunities. A lot of women are still underserved and they're not active.

"Billie's whole life has stood for participation, not observation," Kloss said.

Navratilova played doubles with King, helping her win a record 20th Wimbledon title in 1979. They unveiled the wooden racket King used at Wimbledon, and Jackie Joyner-Kersee displayed Wilma Rudolph's 1961 AP athlete of the year trophy. Drag racer Melanie Troxel joined Janet Guthrie, who donated the helmet she wore at her first Indy 500.

"We've come a long way, baby," said Navratilova, who turns 50 on Wednesday. "But we still have a long way to go yet. Everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams."

Philip Schwalb, founder and CEO of the National Sports Museum, and Kenneth Podziba, head of the New York City Sports Commission, also attended the ceremony.

The National Sports Museum, the new home of the Heisman Trophy, expects to house more than 50 single-sport museums and halls of fame. It will offer rotating exhibits, educational programs, special-event space and a sports-themed cafe.

Schwalb's goal is "to celebrate under one roof, for the first time anywhere, all of the sports. Surprisingly, no museum or hall of fame anywhere has ever done that."

Frazier, an honorary board member of the museum, is glad the women are joining up. His daughter, Jackie, was a college basketball player, became a lawyer and later took up boxing.

"A good athlete is a good athlete," Frazier said. "I've got a house full of girls and guys."

Foudy, who captained the U.S. women's soccer team to two Olympic gold medals and one silver, is the public policy officer at the Women's Sports Foundation. The late chair of the foundation, Dr. Dorothy Blaney, helped push for the center.

"I just think it's fantastic that Billie is getting recognized for all the good she's done," said Foudy. "She's having a banner year."

King, who helped found the WTA in 1973, won 39 Grand Slam titles in her career.

"This year, I've felt so much love from everybody," said King, whose name was added in August to the home of the U.S. Open.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press