“I think they can expect football heaven or a ‘Disneyland’ for football," said David Baker, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

This year’s NFL Draft is just a few days away in Philadelphia. In a couple of years, it could be here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.

“Even if you’re not a football fan, when you come here, you’ll become one,” said Beth Culver of Tennessee.

Culver and her husband love the game of football, so it made sense to make the trip from Tennessee to the HOF. But the Culver’s have come at a time where it’s hard not to find an area without construction teams and orange barrels. That’s because a nearly $600 million dollar development plan is in the works, broken up into nine parts that will make up the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village. Officials have called it the “smart city sports and entertainment complex.”

“We’re planning on coming back to see the improvements,” said Culver.

With the upcoming improvements, Pete Fierle with the HOF has said that they are making a push to possibly bring the NFL Draft to the city in 2019 or 2020, which would mark the league’s 100th season and centennial celebration.

It’s a hope that could turn into reality for the HOF with its upcoming renovations and development plans, that includes a new hotel, retail space and a renovated stadium.

President Baker said the changes made to the HOF would offer “Disney-like” qualities that would transform the area into a destination.

“There’s a statistic that isn’t often shared about the NFL. Of all those fans who are NFL fans, and there’s about 208 million of them in the United States, only 7 percent ever get to go to a game, 93 percent watch it at home on TV,” said Baker. “This could be a place, unlike FirstEnergy Stadium where you could watch a football game eight times a year, then maybe a playoff game, potentially too, this could be a place, 365 days a year, where an aspiring athlete, or an athlete, or a former athlete, or a fan can come.”

The term “smart city” has been used to describe the upcoming improvements, but it’s left some asking what that looks like.

“Every building will be technologically proficient, and we want it to be an immersive experience where you’re not going to see the technology but you’re going to really feel it.” 

Among the upcoming improvements to the HOF, eight state-of-the-art turf fields part of the National Football and Youth Sports Complex, a performance center and football-themed waterpark.

The development plan also includes the Player Care Center. According to the HOF’s website, the “football themed independent and assisted living active senior care facility” will be designed for “retired Hall of Famers and members of the NFL’s Legends Community along with coaches, officials and administrators.”

The completion date of the project is expected to coincide with the league’s 100th season and centennial celebration.

In its first 25 years, the economic impact of the project is expected to bring in about $15.3 billion to the region.

Click here to learn more about the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village.