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What's Next for NFL Draft in Cleveland, Canton's Hall of Fame Village & Resort?

The pandemic brings uncertainty to next year's draft, & has deepened the financial crisis of the football-themed resort in Canton.

CLEVELAND — As the city of Cleveland prepares to host the 2021 NFL Draft, scheduled to begin on April 29, the coronavirus pandemic has brought uncertainty.

No one wants to see a repeat of the 2020 draft, which had to be held virtually this year. Las Vegas had been set to host the in-person event, but will now do so in 2022.

"If we are starting to see some significant light at the end of the tunnel, we know that there will be a lot people out there who will come," David Gilbert, President and CEO of Greater Cleveland Sports Commission and Destination Cleveland, told 3News.

With hope on the horizon that perhaps the pandemic will wane by draft day, NFL organizers came to Cleveland last week to continue plans for a live-but-socially-distant event along the downtown lakefront near FirstEnergy Stadium.

"If we are fortunate enough that this happens as a large, live event, it may be more meaningful to Cleveland and the rest of the nation, that it'll be a coming out party," Gilbert said, adding it's tough to predict the economic impact because of COVID-19, but he's excited for the possibilities. When Nashville hosted the 2019 draft, the city reaped the benefits of a $224 million boost to the local economy.

Meanwhile, there is more excitement about an hour's drive away downtown in Canton.

"In the summer of 2021, we're going to have twice the fun in '21," Rich DesRosiers, Vice President of Communications for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, exclaimed.

The museum is preparing to induct two Hall of Fame classes since the 2020 ceremony was canceled due to the pandemic. DesRosiers is hopeful the week-long pomp and circumstance will return to Stark County in 2021. 

"We're concerned only to the extent of the unknown of how long COVID might hang on," he said.

Next door to the non-profit museum, construction continues for the for-profit project to build a football-themed resort that's been nicknamed the "Disneyland of Football." The nearly $1 billion Hall of Fame Village will include hotels, shopping, an indoor water park, and will be anchored by Top Golf Swing Suites and Shula's Steak House.

Credit: Submitted

However, the ambitious project has faced delays since its launch in 2015, and is now dealing with financial struggles. 3News has learned from third quarter filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the Hall of Fame Village lost $56,772,990 in the first nine months of 2020. The company lost $42,303,992 in the same period in 2019.

Annie Graffice, Vice President of Public Affairs for Hall of Fame Village, issued a statement explaining that new business partnerships, sponsors, and the refinancing of debt are among the reasons why.

"We remain excited about our progress, and are confident in our ability to see our long-term business plan through," she wrote.

The Hall of Fame Village is expecting to complete construction of its $300 million second phase by the end of 2023. Construction of another $300 million third phase will then follow.

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