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Volume 22 No. 7
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Stadium upgrades first up for Pro Football HOF master plan

Don Muret
The master plan for converting the Pro Football Hall of Fame into a year-round destination starts with upgrades to the venerable stadium that kicks off every NFL season.

Last fall, officials at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, laid out the vision for developing the Hall of Fame Village over the next five to 10 years. The $500 million mixed-use project includes a hotel, conference center, youth football fields, restaurants and Legends Landing, an assisted living space reserved for hall of famers.

The initial work starts immediately after the Aug. 9 Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The 22,375-seat facility, which opened in 1939, was known as Fawcett Stadium until December, when it was renamed for New Orleans Saints owner Benson.

Benson’s $11 million contribution helped kick-start the stadium renovations. Of that total, $10 million goes to the stadium and $1 million for Legends Landing.

The total cost for stadium upgrades is estimated at $70 million to $80 million, said Hall of Fame spokesman Pete

The Hall of Fame Village will include a hotel, conference center, restaurants and an assisted living center for hall of famers.
Photo by: COURTESY OF PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME (2)
Fierle. The balance of funding comes from the Hall of Fame and Industrial Realty Group, the Los Angeles company filling the role as master developer for the overall development.

HKS, the designer of three NFL stadiums, including the Minnesota Vikings’ $1 billion venue under construction, helped form the master plan for the Hall of Fame Village. As the project moves ahead, the sports architect plays a key role for upgrading the stadium, which in addition to the annual Hall of Fame Game serves as the home of Canton McKinley Senior High School football and two small college teams.

HKS will be paired with local designers to complete the project in the next two years, said David Baker, the hall’s president and executive director.

The first phase involves demolishing the north grandstands and rebuilding the space with chairback seats, plus lowering the field by about 10 feet to provide a clearer connection between the stadium and the Hall of Fame building next door, said Mark Williams, HKS’s principal-in-charge.

The adjustments extend to a permanent stage to be embedded in the new north stands for future Hall of Fame inductions and concert productions. The Hall of Fame induction ceremonies are now held in one end zone holding a temporary stage.

Next year, the second phase encompasses rebuilding the south side and the end zones with chairbacks, Williams said. The project could potentially include some suites and club seats on the stadium’s south side but no decisions have been made, Williams said. As it stands now, the press box on the south side has some limited hospitality spaces.

New video boards and wireless infrastructure, including a distributed antenna system, are also in the mix. Last week, a few video board manufacturers traveled to Canton to meet with officials about competing for that piece of the project, Baker said.

One video display will wrap around the new stage, providing a backdrop to the enshrinement event, Williams said.

“The big thing about the stadium is it has this incredible amount of history with the Hall of Fame games and McKinley High School’s [multiple] state championships,” Williams said. “We’re trying to respect that history, but at the same time, create the next 50 years of history.”

> SECOND HELPING?: The Atlanta Braves have cooked up several servings of food news over the past two weeks. It started with the team selecting Delaware North Sportservice as the concessionaire for SunTrust Park, its new stadium opening in 2017.

Four days later, the Braves followed up by announcing an extension of their sponsorship with MillerCoors to include naming rights for the Coors Light Chop House, the new park’s restaurant.

As of last week, though, there’s no official word on whether Waffle House will be part of the new facility. The Waffle House stand at Turner Field has been a big hit since it opened in 2013.

“We’re talking to them,” said Mike Plant, the Braves’ executive vice president of business operations. “That’s been a winner.”

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.