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NFL Hall of Fame CEO: We Want to Be Like Disney World

20 Sep, 2017

By: Michael Popke

As the National Football League — which will celebrate its centennial in 2020 ­— continues to face blowback from critics and even longtime fans regarding players’ long-term physical and mental health, David Baker recently likened the Pro Football Hall of Fame to Disney World. 

“If Disney [properties] are the ‘Happiest Place on Earth,’ we want to be the ‘Most Inspiring Place on Earth,’” the Hall of Fame president and chief executive officer recently told the Associated Press. “Football is a great metaphor for leadership, and we can play a role. The game has an incredible history, and kids can get to learn to play the game the right way. We can help build men and women the right way. We can help take care of players — former players like our ‘Gold Jackets’ [a term used to refer to living Hall of Famers], present and future players. We can enhance the experience for fans.”

As part of that transformation, which already has begun, Baker envisions a stadium, eight outdoor youth sports fields, an indoor arena, and a center dedicated to athletic performance and safety on the Canton, Ohio-based Hall of Fame campus.

The Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, in development now, could extend to 600 acres and balloon to an $800 million price tag. According to the Hall of Fame’s website, the village “will be the first-ever sports and entertainment ‘Smart City.’ Ten major components will be integrated through technology to subtlety and seamlessly share the values from the [g]ame — commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence ­— with guests in a way that will impact their lives.”

Last year, the Hall of Fame Game, which kicks off the NFL’s preseason, was scrapped because of unplayable turf at 23,000-seat Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, where new synthetic turf recently was installed and other renovations for fans and players were completed. 

The venue will host the Black College Hall of Fame Classic, and the NCAA Division III football championship game will be played there in 2020 and 2021. Ohio’s high school state football championships also will relocate from Ohio State to Canton.

Additionally, according to the AP, the Division III men’s volleyball championships will take place in a new 80,000-square-foot indoor performance center in 2022. That facility also will boast a full-size football field with configuration for basketball when it opens in 2020.

Plans also call for the Hall of Fame Experience to offer a football-themed indoor amusement park and indoor waterpark.

Oh, yeah: Baker also hopes to bring the NFL Draft to Canton.

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