SBJ/Aug. 18-24, 2014/In Depth

A better result than the NASCAR Hall?

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Organizers of the $68.5 million College Football Hall of Fame learned from the mistakes Charlotte made with its NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The $200 million NASCAR building, at 130,000 square feet, is too large, said John Stephenson, president and CEO of the college hall. Projections of more than 800,000 visitors in the NASCAR hall’s first fiscal year (2010-11) proved to be out of reach. The NASCAR hall lost money its first three years, including a $1.6 million deficit in fiscal 2013, and annual attendance registered below 200,000 in fiscal 2012 and 2013.
THE HALL OF FAME NUMBERS GAME
HALL OF FAME LOCATION TOTAL REVENUE TOTAL EXPENSES REVENUE FROM ADMISSIONS
Hockey Hall of Fame Toronto $13,706,523 $13,129,913 NA
International Tennis Hall of Fame Newport, R.I. $10,583,672 $6,879,039 $616,619
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Springfield, Mass. $5,815,209 $6,215,706 $1,394,348
NASCAR Hall of Fame Charlotte Loss of $1.8  million in 2012* NA NA
National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Cooperstown, N.Y. $8,333,831 $11,393,224 $3,115,821
Pro Football Hall of Fame Canton, Ohio $12,974,627 $11,332,244 $2,543,948
NA: Not available
* According to published reports
Source: 2012 Form 990, Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service; Charities Directorate of the Canada Revenue Agency

Atlanta’s college hall, which opens Saturday, expects to benefit from major differences in its process.

Charlotte became involved in a hyper-competitive bid process for the NASCAR hall with other cities. That led to inflated numbers. The college hall had no such competition. The National Football Foundation, which owns the rights to the hall and licenses it to Atlanta Hall Management, committed to go to Atlanta four years ago after 17 years in South Bend, Ind. But Atlanta’s organizing group first had to crunch the numbers.

“If we can’t do something, with this subject matter, that at least breaks even, then let’s not do it,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson formed a building committee of Atlanta Hall Management board members and real estate, legal, civic and engineering executives. They decided on a 94,256-square-foot building, with an estimated 500,000 visitors in the first year.

“We treated it like a real estate development project,” Stephenson said. “A lot of due diligence went into it to make sure the numbers made sense.”

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