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ATL Business Chronicle

College Football Hall of Fame pushes back opening

By Lisa R. Schoolcraft and Maria Saporta
Friday, May 27, 2011

The College Football Hall of Fame plans to open bigger, and later, than first expected.

But leaders say the extra time will allow them to raise the rest of the funds for the $82 million project and open debt-free in September 2013. That would be six months later than originally projected, and just prior to the Chick-fil-A Kickoff football game in Atlanta.

The Hall of Fame, which is relocating from South Bend, Ind., is planned for downtown Atlanta in what is now the Green parking lot of the Georgia World Congress Center, near Marietta and Baker streets.

The project is now planned for 75,000 square feet, 50 percent larger than the original 50,000-square-foot concept. It will include a 3-D theater, interactive displays of college football greats, have an event space designed as a football field, and house the National Football Foundation’s Hall of Fame displays.

Atlanta Hall Management Inc., the entity that holds the license for the hall and will operate it, currently has about $33 million in committed funds, and expects to have another $12 million in 90 days, said Gary Stokan, president and CEO of Atlanta Hall Management. The goal is to raise at least $48 million before the attraction’s groundbreaking, now scheduled for February 2012.

Originally, plans called for a 50,000- square-foot project that would have opened in March 2013.

Atlanta Hall Management received $15 million in general obligation bonds from the state of Georgia, he said. That goes toward construction of a six-level, 400-plus space parking deck on the north side of the 2.7-acre site, near STATS restaurant, as well as a covered pedestrian walkway from the attraction to the GWCC’s Hall A. The bonds, which will not have to be repaid, also will be used to extend Baker Street and close Foundry Street near the GWCC, he said.

Additionally, Atlanta Hall Management has $5 million from the Chick-fil-A Bowl board, $6 million from Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A Inc., $2.5 million from The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) and marketing asset commitments from Coke, Stokan said.

The hall also has $1 million from the city of Atlanta, $3 million in new market tax credits, and $500,000 from Brasfield & Gorrie LLC, the general contractor of the project.

The hall is projected to be successful financially with 500,000 per year in attendance, said Steve Robinson, chairman of Atlanta Hall Management. Anything more than that would require the hall to use timed ticketing, which is used by attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium.

Ticket prices are projected to be $19.

Double attraction

As it stands now, the College Football Hall of Fame would open just weeks before the National Center for Civil & Human Rights, a $100 million project blocks away.

“It’s unusual that two [attractions] are coming on line in one city in a year,” said Taylor Hamilton, a senior analyst with IBISWorld, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based consumer research firm.

Hamilton expects the hall of fame to do much better in Atlanta than where it is now, near the University of Notre Dame. “Right now, to go there, you have to be a Notre Dame fan or alum.”

Current annual attendance for the hall in Indiana is about 65,000.
Sports fans coming to see the Braves, Falcons and Hawks would be a likely audience for the Hall of Fame, he said. And the hall will be “in the heart of SEC and ACC country. The SEC is one of the most storied [football] conferences.”

Sporty visitors

Sports events make up 5 percent of total convention visitation to Atlanta and “those folks are going to have an immediate inclination to visit the Hall of Fame,” said William Pate, president and CEO of Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Of Atlanta’s top 25 conventions this year, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff and the SEC Football Championship are ranked third, fourth and fifth, by projected attendance.

But the hall won’t be just for those attending college football games, since medical conventions and supply-chain conventions are attended by college football fans, too, he said.

Both the hall and the Center for Civil Rights opening around the same time “just shows the momentum Atlanta has,” Pate said. “Conventioneers are always looking for something to do. We have the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, the Luckie Marietta District. Most cities would be ecstatic to have one of these.”

While Atlanta has long been a top city for conventions, the city has worked to boost its appeal to tourists. That effort got a big lift with the opening of the aquarium in 2005 and the new World of Coca-Cola in 2007.

Both the College Hall and the civil rights center “are so big and tied to the fabric of the United States,” Pate said. “That’s why I know it will drive incremental visitation.”

The average stay for a tourist in Atlanta is 3.5 days, he said. Tourism represents a $10 billion economic impact to the area.

Both the National Center for Civil & Human Rights and the College Football Hall of Fame “are important in the context of positioning Atlanta as a center, or hub, for important activities that have defined not only the region, but the city,” said Frank Poe, executive director of the GWCC, the nation’s fourth-largest convention center.

Both attractions will help draw conventions, he said, by providing entertainment, education, and venues for social events that are part of conventions and tradeshows.

Stokan and Robinson are adamant the hall will open debt-free.
“We need another $35 million to open debt-free,” Robinson said. “We are on a serious mission to do that. The board is not un-engaged in raising funds. I’m confident people who love college football and love Atlanta will step in.”

Atlanta Hall Management includes executives from Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola, AT&T Inc., ESPN and accounting firm Tarica & Whittemore on its board.
Stokan expects sponsorships and additional funds to come from Atlanta and national companies that advertise with, and sponsor, college football games — companies like Aflac Inc., United Parcel Service Inc., AT&T and The Home Depot Inc.

“You can’t turn on a TV for college games and not see those brands as an underpinning,” Stokan said.

The city has a unique capacity to rise to the occasion, whether it is the Olympics, supporting Grady Memorial Hospital or upgrading the city’s sewer system, he said. “The DNA of the corporate leadership has a way of giving back to the city.”

College Football Hall of Fame
Open: September 2013
Cost: $82 million
Project Manager: Cousins Properties Inc./Gude Management Group LLC
Construction Manager: Brasfield & Gorrie LLC — BenchMark Management
Architect: TVS Design of Atlanta in a joint venture with Turner Associates Inc. of Atlanta
Designer: Gallagher & Associates of Washington, D.C.
Funds raised to date: $33 million
Total square footage: 75,000

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. James R. Oxendine May 31, 2011 9:12 am

    Great news for Atlanta’s hospitality industry and downtown in general.The jobs both direct and indirect will have a significant impact and the presence of construction cranes on the skyline will be a welcome sign as well.Report


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