FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Julie Pitts, NSGA Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame Secretary
(847) 296-6742, ext. 1180
DOWNERS GROVE, ILLINOIS (January 4, 2022) – The three inductees in the Class of 2022 of the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame share a common entrepreneurial spirit.
Michael Gotfredson Sr., of Road Runner Sports, Wilson “Bill” Hunt of CHAMPRO and Bill Sorenson of American Sports Products Group will join 175 retailers, team dealers, manufacturers and industry influencers who have been honored with induction into the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame since it was established by the National Sporting Goods Association in 1955. The selections of Gotfredson, Hunt and Sorenson were made by the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame Committee at its annual meeting in September.
“We have another excellent group of inductees as the Class of 2022 has left a significant imprint on various areas of the industry,” said Ken Meehan, Hall of Fame Committee Chairman. “It is a tremendous thrill to welcome them to the Hall of Fame and to see them honored for their accomplishments.”
The Hall of Fame dinner and induction ceremony will be held May 24, 2022 at the JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, the site of the 2022 NSGA Management Conference & Team Dealer Summit. Details on attending this event will be announced soon.
Michael Gotfredson, Sr.
Providing for his family and making the world a healthier place was Michael Gotfredson’s inspiration to revolutionize the running and fitness industry. Gotfredson, also referred to as Mike G., or Chief Runner, founded Road Runner Sports in September 1983, and today it is the largest running specialty retailer in the United States.
In 1983, Gotfredson had a wife and four kids under the age of 5 when he lost his job, forcing his family to live on a tight budget. One day, he went into a running store and was appalled by the high cost of shoes and poor customer service. He believed he was not alone in his frustrations, so with an MBA from Fresno State in direct marketing, he decided to solve the problem.
His vision in the pre-Internet age was to mail catalogs to consumers with detailed descriptions of the features and benefits of running shoes and fitness products, and to sell them at fair prices, something that was unheard of at the time. One of his first big hurdles was to open business accounts with the big running shoe vendors including Asics, Brooks and adidas and he sold product out of a garage solely through catalog mailings and “Fit Experts” taking calls from across the country.
Road Runner Sports Customer Care Center grew from one Fit Expert to almost 200 within a few years. It now has 41 physical stores focused on all facets of running and fitness. Each store is dedicated to selling the right product to fit the specific needs of consumers. The business has flourished because more than 800 employees genuinely care about their customers and make the most of every opportunity to interact with them.
Wilson “Bill” Hunt
Wilson “Bill” Hunt started CHAMPRO in 1986 with the goal of producing team sports gear that equaled or exceeded the performance of the established brands, but at a lower cost to the consumer. CHAMPRO grew from a limited line of baseball equipment and expanded over the years to eventually offer a complete line of team sports equipment and uniforms that can outfit players from head to toe.
Hunt has always enjoyed hard work and the challenges it provided since he was 10 years old. He graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in economics and after a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia, he went to work for Berkley and Company in Spirit Lake, Iowa, as its international buyer. Several years later he accepted a position at Wilson Sporting Goods and became Director of the Baseball/Softball Division.
In 1986 he stepped out and started CHAMPRO. Hunt’s drive enabled CHAMPRO to grow from a family operated company to a national brand headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Wheeling, Illinois, which employs more than 600 employees based in three countries. Hunt has always looked for new ways to deliver the best value by developing new products, rethinking speed and quality of service, searching for new sourcing opportunities, and keeping overhead low.
After starting as an equipment company, CHAMPRO entered the team apparel market in the 1990s. The apparel business grew during the next 15 years, at which point he broadened the product line to include custom uniforms. Since entering the custom uniform market, CHAMPRO has developed a proprietary manufacturing infrastructure with the fastest delivery times in the industry. Custom uniforms now make up one-third of the company’s total revenue.
CHAMPRO has also made an international impact with economic development and community involvement through founding of the CHAMPRO School in Ethiopia, involvement with Eden Reforestation Projects and by supporting Chicago area non-profits that provide team sports opportunities for youth.
A meeting at a University of Iowa swimming pool was a life-altering moment for Bill Sorenson and so many people involved in gymnastics. Sorenson not only became a successful gymnast but transformed the sport through the innovative creation and development of equipment.
As a freshman at Iowa, Sorenson was a competitive diver when gymnastics coach Dick Holzaepfel came to a practice at the pool and asked Sorenson if he “had ever been on a trampoline.” Sorenson quickly mastered the trampoline at a high level as he won gold and silver medals in the AAU National Championships and was the Big Ten Conference champion in 1953. After graduation, Sorenson moved to New York and became a professional trampoline performer for six months before returning to Jefferson, Iowa.
Sorenson couldn’t get rid of his trampoline craziness and built his first trampoline, the Aqua-Tramp, in his garage. He began making diving and recreational trampolines in the basement of his father-in-law’s hardware store and in 1954 founded the American Trampoline Company, which manufactured and sold a full line of trampolines, including those used in high schools, colleges and universities for gymnastics competition and physical education. The company became American Athletic Inc. (AAI) in 1957, produced a full line of gymnastics apparatus and protective pads by 1961 and became the official equipment supplier to the United States Gymnastics Federation (USGF) in 1963.
Sorenson was the lead inventor on more than 10 patents for gymnastics equipment. AAI provided the competition gymnastic equipment for many major national and international competitions. AAI merged with Head Ski in 1968 and became the AMF Corporation in 1971, where Sorenson became a group executive. He has been instrumental in advancing trampoline safety and is a member of the U.S. Gymnastics and U.S. Trampoline and Tumbling halls of fame.
About the National Sporting Goods Association
Since 1929, the National Sporting Goods Association has been the leading voice and go-to resource for sporting goods retailers and dealers. NSGA helps the industry grow the business through research, advocacy and networking. For more information about membership or NSGA’s products and services, please visit nsga.org.
About the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame
NSGA created the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame in 1955 to honor sporting goods pioneers, innovators and leaders, while recognizing and encouraging continued excellence in the industry. Since the first induction in 1956, 175 men and women have been inducted. Nominations are now being accepted for the 2023 induction class. The deadline for nominations is March 31, 2022. Nomination forms and information can be found at www.nsga.org/halloffame. Questions can be directed to Julie Pitts, Hall of Fame Committee secretary, at firstname.lastname@example.org.