CANTON -- Construction on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village began Thursday when demolition commenced on the north stands of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
The first phase of the visionary project includes the construction of a new north stands and a fan plaza between the stadium and the Hall of Fame.
A construction timeline has been created to ensure completion of the first phase in time for the 2016 Enshrinement Ceremony, NFL/Hall of Fame Game, and Concert for Legends.
All three marquee events of the annual Enshrinement Weekend are held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
HOF Village includes eight main components planned to drastically change the Hall of Fame campus into a spectacular destination. The key elements of the $476 million development project are:
- Hall of Fame Museum
- Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium/Sports & Entertainment Complex
- Hotel & Conference Center
- Hall of Fame NFL Experience
- Youth Fields
- Legends Landing/Residential
- Center for Excellence (Athletic Performance & Safety; Corporate Excellence; Coaches & Officials academies)
- "Main Street Hall of Fame" (retail/restaurant/office space).
The project is being led by HOF Village LLC, a partnership between the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the project's master developer Industrial Realty Group (IRG).
The project has also been made possible through the support of other partners: the City of Canton, Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, Canton City School District, the State of Ohio, and the Stark County Port Authority. Welty Construction Company will lead construction of the first phase.
The new stadium, designed by HKS, will be completed over two years with the north stands and fan plaza slated for completion by mid-July next summer. The second phase of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium will begin immediately following the 2016 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend and completed in the summer of 2017.
The cost of the completed stadium is estimated at $65-80 million and will include the unique feature of a permanent stage in the north stands to accommodate the annual Enshrinement Ceremony, concerts, and other events.
The completed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium will remain at a capacity of 23,000 and will include seat backs throughout the stadium that will replace the current bleacher seating. The stadium will also include additional seating for handicapped guests. As part of the project, Canton City Schools will ground lease property to the Stark Country Port Authority who, in turn, will lease the stadium and its operations to HOF Village LLC. The lease payments will pay for all taxpayer contributions to Canton City Schools athletics.
Also as part of the first phase, the field will be lowered 12-14 feet. That work will begin in early November immediately after the high school football season. The stadium is the home field for McKinley High School, Malone University and Walsh University. All but one of the regular season games will be played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in 2015 with Malone playing its last home game at another location. All three football programs will play the 2016 season at other venues.
Construction, safety and mitigation of the project has been planned to be the least disruptive as possible. Road closures took place earlier this week that included the placement of road signs leading to the construction area. Demolition of the stadium will take 30-45 days at which time the construction phase will begin immediately.
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was built as Fawcett Stadium from 1937-39. The rich history behind the largest high school stadium in the country will be preserved. Measures have been made for historical items to be carefully removed prior to demolition and stored in an appropriate manner. The items will be used over the course of the project to ensure the history of the venue is celebrated for decades to come. Some of the items include the personalized brick pavers that were purchased by school supporters, ticket gates and existing plaques. In addition, the stadium will have recognition of John Fawcett, after whom the stadium was originally named.
The stadium was renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in honor of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson who made a record gift of $11 million to the Hall of Fame to be used for HOF Village. The major portion, $10 million, was earmarked for the stadium since it is the first phase of the project. Benson donated an additional $1 million for Legends Landing, an assisted living facility for Hall of Famers and others from the NFL Legends community. Benson and his wife Gayle were on hand at the Hall of Fame in early August for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the stadium that was staged as part of the Enshrinement Weekend.