NEW ORLEANS – On Sept. 14, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation hosted its annual Honors Luncheon on the turf of the Caesars Superdome. At the event, speakers reflected on the organization’s 35-year history of bidding on and managing successful events. It was also a chance to honor three of the Sports Foundation’s founding members: Doug Thornton, Mike Millay, and Ron Maestri. The trio was inducted into the Sports Foundation Hall of Fame.
Former LSU Gymnastics Head Coach D-D Breaux and current LSU Gymnastics Head Coach Jay Clark joined Sports Foundation President and CEO Jay Cicero to reveal that the SEC Gymnastics Championship will return to New Orleans in 2024, after a record-setting attendance at the 2019 Championships held at the Smoothie King Center.
“New Orleans is home to a vibrant sports and major events community,” said Cicero. “Whether you’re a fan, an athlete, or working on the sidelines, it’s the New Orleans way to come together and celebrate. That’s what this year’s Honors Luncheon is all about – reflecting, honoring, and celebrating the year’s achievements in sports and recognizing the individuals leading the way in the sports industry.”
The Honors Luncheon also featured 2025 Super Bowl LIX Host Committee Chair and Entergy Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Marcus Brown, celebrating the return of Super Bowl to New Orleans, while recognizing the leading role of the Saints, Sports Foundation, Founding Partner Entergy, and other current Host Committee partners for their support.
“New Orleans is a place full of culture, entertainment, and a deep-rooted love for sports and events,” said Brown. “We as a city have so much to offer, and we want our passion and hospitality to shine through, as we welcome one of the biggest sporting events in the world.”
The Honors Luncheon also recognized and celebrated several women leading the way in the Greater New Orleans sports industry through an engaging and informative panel discussion. Sports Foundation Executive Committee member Kim Boyle led the panel discussion with influential women in the region, including Swin Cash of the Pelicans; Jen Hale of FS1, Fox and the Pelicans; D-D Breaux of LSU; and Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference
The three Hall of Fame inductees are all founding members of the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation. Doug Thornton served as President and CEO of the Sports Foundation from 1994 to 1997 and is currently Executive Vice President at ASM Global, overseeing stadiums and facilities here in New Orleans and across the world. Mike Millay was the first-ever Executive Director of the Sports Foundation from 1988-1994. Millay started Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex and is currently the Managing Partner of Clancy’s Sports Properties. Ron Maestri earned his legacy as the legendary Coach of the University of New Orleans baseball team, leading the Privateers to the College World Series in 1974 and 1984, eventually being named Athletic Director. As the UNO Athletic Director, Maestri led the way for New Orleans to host the 1987 and 1993 NCAA Men’s Final Fours. After retiring from UNO, he served as Executive Director of NCAA Events for the Sports Foundation from 2000 to 2004, including the 2003 Men’s and 2004 Women’s Final Fours.
“There’s so much that people don’t realize go into bringing large-scale, bid upon sporting events to New Orleans,” said Cicero. “What made it all that possible is the unwavering dedication and support of Sports Foundation founders like Mike Millay, Ron Maestri, and Doug Thornton. These men are champions for the City of New Orleans and are responsible for millions in economic impact for the city. We’re grateful for their time and service to the Sports Foundation’s mission”
The Sports Foundation has hosted hundreds of sporting events benefiting the city and state, generating billions in economic impact, and garnering invaluable media exposure. The success of the organization has elevated New Orleans as the premier destination for major sporting events, as witnessed by the lineup of events to be managed by the Sports Foundation and their many citywide partners.
The Sports Foundation plays host to some of the largest sporting events in the world, including the last three Super Bowls (the 4th in 2025), two WrestleManias, four NCAA Men’s Final Fours, three NCAA Women’s Final Fours, three NBA All‐Star Games, four Bassmaster Classics, the USA Olympic Track and Field Trials, the USA Olympic Weightlifting Trials, 22 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowls, three AAU Junior Olympic Games, numerous NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball 1st/2nd Rounds and Regionals, and many more in its 35-year history.