The story goes that former Rome mayor Carl Eilenberg and Rome City School District athletic director Bill Coughlin used to jog together on the streets of the City of Rome. As they jogged, they discussed all the great athletes and teams that Rome had produced. Rome was a great sports town with plenty of athletes and teams of note, so why not start a sports hall of fame to acknowledge these great athletes?
Eilenberg approached the City Council about the possibility of the Hall of Fame occupying space in City Hall in what was known as the State Room in the City Hall Annex. Joseph Vincent and Wes McMaster drew up the plans for the City Hall location. Ellie Bruce, heading up the Hall of Fame committee, started collecting dozens of trophies, photographs, and other memorabilia. In December of 1982, the State Room became the temporary home of the Rome Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
As the Hall of Fame was tucked away in a remote location of City Hall, most of its visitors were people searching for the bathroom. However, President Ellie Bruce was unfazed and had big plans for the Rome Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Bruce explained that "the museum commemorates Rome natives who have achieved success in sports. What we are trying to do, is give the community another tourist attraction, another thing to be proud of, and, we've done it on a shoestring."
In September 1984, the organization filed for a state charter to organize to qualify for state funds. That charter was granted on May 24, 1985. On September 9, 1987, the ground was broken on Rome New London Road adjacent to the Erie Canal Village for the Sports Hall of Fame and the Richie Evans Racing Memorial buildings. Donations from Richie's fans and local powerboat racer and businessman Dave Packer were received towards construction costs. The Evans committee unfortunately disbanded and gave their money to the Rome Sports Hall of Fame which now allowed one building to house a Racing Wing in one half and the Rome Sports Hall of Fame in the other half.
The construction, however, was not without issues. On October 20, 1989, while on routine patrol Oneida County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Townsend discovered that the framework for the Sports Hall of Fame had been blown down by strong winds. Undeterred by this setback, the construction started up again, and the facility was completed On July 7, 1991. The Rome Sports Hall of Fame and Museum was dedicated after almost 10 years of planning.
The Inaugural Class of Inductees in 1977 included William Valentine and William Keating. By July 2022, the Hall of Fame had Inducted a total of 203 people consisting of 168 males and 35 females, and honored numerous high school and college sports personalities.