SBJ/Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2013/Colleges

Hall monitoring: Induction is off-site this year, but college football shrine is rising in Atlanta

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The College Football Hall of Fame is still a year away from opening its new digs in Atlanta, but the 94,256-square-foot building is beginning to rise from the ground and take shape next to Centennial Park. The hall’s unofficial kickoff, however, will come Wednesday, when the Omni hosts the enshrinement ceremonies for the 2013 class of inductees. It won’t offer the full supply of glitz and glamor that the $66.5 million hall will next year, but it does give President and CEO John Stephenson a chance to talk about the progress they’re making.

Staff writer Michael Smith spoke with Stephenson last week as, coincidentally, he was about to board a flight to Dallas to meet with National Football Foundation members about the upcoming enshrinement.


Rendering shows the hall, set to open in fall 2014.
Photo by: ATLANTA HALL MANAGEMENT
You know what the enshrinement will be like at the Omni. What about future enshrinements?

STEPHENSON: In the future, it will be in our building and that will enable us to do a lot more. This one is a provisional, if you will. But the [old hall in South Bend, Ind.] is closed and we didn’t want this class to go without a celebration. We’ll have a dinner and reception, but it won’t set any precedents for what we’ll do when the hall opens.

How busy is your speaking schedule these days?

STEPHENSON:
(Laughs) It’s pretty busy, but it’s good. There’s lots of excitement now that the building is coming out of the ground. I’d say I’m speaking three to four times a week and I’m talking to groups of various sizes.

What’s the latest on the building?

STEPHENSON:
The site work is done, so they’re done with the ground and now they’re building the structure. They’ve poured the first-floor slabs, and now they’re pouring the second-floor slabs this week. Things are going to start moving fast now that they’re out of the ground and despite triple the usual rainfall we’ve had in Atlanta.

What developments have there been on the sponsorship front?

STEPHENSON:
We still have some categories and some assets to be named. Now that the building is starting to come out of the ground, we’ve had a new wave of sponsors interested and we’re continuing down that path. We’re on track with some sponsors and should have some announcements in the coming months. We’re also working with our [10] current sponsors and designers to determine how their brands will appear, and the good thing about them coming on early is that they’ll have some opportunity to customize. As the design process unfolds, sponsors are at the table with us, so they can say how they’d like to help.

Any cool items or artifacts that you’ve come across lately?

STEPHENSON:
We just scanned in John Heisman’s original playbook, so visitors will be able to leaf through that virtually. We’re very fortunate because Kent Stephens, who was in charge of artifacts at South Bend, is with us now.

We will have 1,400 artifacts at our disposal, but only 450 or so will be on display each day throughout the exhibitory. We’ll rotate the artifacts and refresh the exhibits, so the experiences will change. You can almost be guaranteed that the second or third visit will be different than your first visit.

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