Pro Football Hall of Fame Village: How we got here, where it’s going

July 20, 2018

By Alison Matas

GateHouse Media Ohio Posted Jul 1, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village is designed to be an estimated billion-dollar, 107-acre, 10-part campus surrounding the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

CANTON A team of developers, financiers and entertainment executives are building football’s version of Disneyland in Canton.

Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village is designed to be an estimated billion-dollar, 107-acre, 10-part campus surrounding the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The development remains in the early stages but eventually is expected to include an indoor water park, virtual reality rides, a retirement community and medical facility, a four-star hotel and conference center, a 5,500-seat arena, retail, restaurants and a youth sports complex.

The Village concept is similar to Disney in that it won’t just be a physical location but also be a film and publishing company, those involved say.

Plans for the footprint of the Village were released broadly in 2015, when developers hosted a meeting to share the results of an economic impact study. The original completion date was May 2018, though that timeline got pushed back as the project grew. Construction has been stalled for nearly a year as the development team reorganized and secured funding to pay bills and keep building.

Hall President David Baker said the goal now is to get as much completed as possible in time for the NFL’s centennial in September 2020.

Work was expected to resume on the youth sports complex this June. Other construction projects are paused until after this year’s enshrinement. The overflow parking lot being built at Stadium Park, on land adjacent to the Hall of Fame, has to finish before the Hall rips up its parking lots to keep building.

Here’s what’s happened so far.

Bricks and mortar
• Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was rebuilt and dedicated.
Construction began on Benson Stadium in 2015, and the north and south stands of the facility were demolished and reconstructed between enshrinement festivals. Last summer, the $139 million stadium was dedicated and hosted its first Hall of Fame Game. The 23,000-capacity stadium has a sky lounge, club seats, suites and party decks and has a permanent stage built into the north stands at the 50-yard line. It is named for the late New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, who donated $10 million to the stadium.

• New youth fields were constructed, and thousands of kids came to Canton to play.
The Hall’s campus has five multipurpose youth fields that in 2017 brought in 130,000 athletes, family members and fans to Canton for different events. At the end of 2017, the fields were the site of the first Pro Football Hall of Fame World Youth Football Championships, which drew 70 teams from the U.S. and Mexico. The weekend culminated with championship games in Benson Stadium, some of which later aired on CBS Sports Network.

• A four-star hotel broke ground.
In April of 2017, developers hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking for a four-star hotel that is expected to be a boutique, 243-room property that’s part of the Curio by Hilton collection. The price tag for the hotel and attached parking garage — according to records filed with the state of Ohio — is $135 million. Plans for the hotel include several restaurants, a coffee bar, conference space and a fitness center. No structure has been built yet.

• The museum opened a holographic exhibit.
The Hall in the summer of 2016 debuted a holographic theater exhibit that was heralded as an example of the technological features that will be on display throughout the Village. A hologram of Joe Namath narrates a show where Hall of Famers appear via video and talk about the life lessons they’ve learned playing football. The audience sits inside a locker room where lights flash and benches rumble as part of the show. Immersive Artistry, a multisensory entertainment company, created the exhibit and is part of the Village’s development team.

• Developers have purchased dozens of properties surrounding the Hall.
The real estate acquisition company set up by the development team owns more than 130 parcels, most of which are single-family homes. Some demolition has occurred to make way for new development, but many of the homes still are standing.

People and plans
• Johnson Controls purchased the naming rights to the Village.
Johnson Controls — a building efficiency and battery company with operational headquarters near Milwaukee — in 2016 bought the naming rights to the Village in a nine-figure, 18-year deal. As part of the agreement, Village developers promised to outfit the Village in building technology from Johnson Controls. Since then, the Village has been billed as the first-ever smart sports and entertainment complex.

• A new leadership and advisory team was formed for the Village, led by financial and strategic adviser Michael Klein.

The Village development began as a partnership between the Hall and real estate company Industrial Realty Group, but the leadership team has expanded. Boutique advisory firm M. Klein and Company, in collaboration with the Hall and IRG, will oversee development moving forward.

• Canton, in partnership with Cleveland, became a finalist to host the NFL Draft.

The joint bid from the two cities lost to Nashville for 2019, but Northeast Ohio still is a finalist for the 2020 draft, when more of the Village is expected to be built.

• A committee of Stark County leaders and NFL executives began planning to host the NFL Centennial Celebration in 2020.
Officials with the Hall say they want to have as much of the Village as they can completed by Sept. 17, 2020, which is the NFL’s 100th birthday. Canton is expected to host a multi-day celebration that includes an invite for every NFL player.

Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or alison.matas@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @amatasREP



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