By Rubin E. Grant
When Alabama Sports Hall of Fame board Chairman Edgar Welden and Executive Director Scott Myers paid Robbie Robertson a visit in the fall, Robertson figured they wanted his ideas for the 2020 induction banquet.
After all, Robertson is founder, president and CEO of the Colonnade Group, which offers event services in the areas of premium seating management, temporary structures, interactive fan events and VIP hospitality experiences. The Colonnade Group’s clients include more than a dozen Division I universities, the nation’s largest collegiate athletic conferences, the NCAA and the College Football Playoff.
But Welden and Myers had something else in mind, and it floored Robertson.
Welden and Myers informed Robertson that he was going to be recognized as the ASHOF 2020 Distinguished American Sportsman.
“They told me I needed to get the distinguished sportsman award and I thought I’d have a heart attack,” Robertson recalled. “I wasn’t looking for anything like that. It took me a while to get over it. I was totally overwhelmed.
“When I look at some of the others who have gotten it like Bob Hope, President (George H.W.) Bush and Charles O. Finley, I don’t travel in that kind of company. I don’t see myself that way.”
Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the ASHOF held its 52nd annual induction ceremony virtually on Aug. 1. It originally had been scheduled for May 2 at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel.
“We all cut a video acceptance,” Robertston said. “I jokingly told Scott I had gotten mine down to 42 minutes. He said that’s all right, they were cutting me off at 4 minutes.”
Robertson held a watch party at his home with family and friends for the virtual ceremony. He said he enjoyed seeing all the other inductees in the 2020 ASHOF class, including his close friends Steve Shaw, a football official, and Duane Reboul, the former Birmingham-Southern College basketball coach who is coming out of retirement to be an assistant at Samford University next season.
Also in the class were football player Ronnie Brown, football player and coach Sylvester Croom, Paralympian Doug Kennedy, baseball player Q.V. Lowe, football player and coach Woody McCorvey and baseball player Jorge Posada. Paul Finebaum was honored as the 2020 Mel Allen Media Award recipient; Don Hawkins as the 2020 Frank “Pig” House Award recipient; and Brodie Croyle as the inaugural Starr-Sullivan Achievement Award recipient.
“While we are very disappointed that we are not able to honor the Class of 2020 at a banquet, we are very thankful technology allowed us to still induct these sports heroes in a way that is safe for everyone,” Myers said in a statement about the virtual induction ceremony.
Robertson expects the ASHOF to bring the 2020 induction class together in person in 2021.
“I know they are planning to do a little something next year,” Robertson said. “I think we’ll have a reception.”
Building a Career With Passion
A native of Birmingham, Robertson is a graduate of Samford. After serving in the U.S. Army, he began his career in business and later founded the Colonnade Group.
Robertson’s innovative ideas, passion for relationships and ability to build effective management and production teams have led to the Colonnade Group’s reputation as the preeminent provider of custom event management and hospitality solutions in intercollegiate and professional athletics.
Robertson’s love of Birmingham and giving back to his community is reflected through his service. He is president of the Crippled Children’s Foundation Board of Directors and on the boards of the Wedgewood Links to Life Charities, Grandview Medical Center, Children’s Harbor at Lake Martin and the Monday Morning Quarterback Club, where he is a past captain and recipient of the Hall Thompson Distinguished Member Award.
One of Robertson’s favorite endeavors was coaching basketball in the Birmingham Summer League in the 1980s. He formed several lasting friendships. So, when the Houston Rockets came to Birmingham in October 2018 to play the Memphis Grizzlies in an NBA exhibition game, Robertson reached out to some of the former summer league players.
“I invited some of the guys who had played in the summer league and they came from everywhere, such as Derrick McKey and Robert Horry,” Robertson said. “I couldn’t believe it. It turned into a love fest. Wimp (Sanderson) came and said it was the greatest time he had ever had and Sonny (Smith) said the same thing.”
In 2010, Robertson was inducted into the University of Alabama School of Human Environmental Sciences Hospitality Management Hall of Fame. He is married to Lori Robertson, who works alongside him at Colonnade Group, and they have four children.
“I’m glad the good Lord gave me a business to help other people,” Robertson said. “I’m very appreciative of the honor and humbled because I’m the same guy who started this company that’s now in its 30th year.
“I coached some in the early grades at Mountain Brook and have been active with the Quarterback Club Foundation. It’s just me doing what I do.”