College Football Hall of Fame moves forward; also Falcons stadium update

(Updated 7 p.m.)

The College Football Hall of Fame’s long-in-the-works move to Atlanta got a big boost Thursday, when organizers of the proposed downtown attraction assured a state agency that they have raised enough sponsorship commitments to move forward with construction.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority board responded by passing a resolution that endorses proceeding with the project, which is planned for GWCCA property near Centennial Olympic Park.

“It’s definitely going to happen,” John Stephenson, interim CEO of Atlanta Hall Management, the organization overseeing the Hall of Fame’s proposed move here, said in an interview after the board vote.

The GWCCA board, in the first day of a two-day “planning retreat” at Lake Lanier Islands, also heard an update on negotiations for a proposed new Atlanta Falcons stadium, which would be built near the GWCCA-operated Georgia Dome.

A GWCCA attorney reviewed with the board the provisions in the current version of a non-binding term sheet on a stadium deal, most of which were reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week.

The attorney, Denis Braham, mentioned several issues on which the GWCCA and the Falcons have not reached an agreement. The “most significant open item,” he said, is the amount of the annual license payment — or rent – the Falcons would pay on the stadium to the GWCCA.

Another open issue involves the amount of money that would be deposited annually into a capital improvements fund after the stadium is built and the Falcons’ potential contribution to that fund. Another involves the GWCCA’s ability to use the site of the Georgia Dome, which would be demolished if a new stadium is built, for any purpose other than surface parking.

As previously reported, the term sheet states that the GWCCA would own the stadium, that the Falcons would “control” the stadium and its revenue streams under conditions of a 30-year license agreement, and that the GWCCA would continue to manage Georgia Dome “legacy events,” such as college football and basketball games, in the new facility.

The term sheet states that the Falcons/NFL would be responsible for all construction costs not covered by proceeds from a portion of Atlanta’s hotel-motel tax. Official projections of stadium cost have ranged from $948 million to $1.03 billion. Recent estimates of the hotel-motel tax contribution have been below $300 million.

The board was not asked to take any action regarding the stadium Thursday. Frank Poe, GWCCA executive director, cautioned that the negotiations remain a “work in progress.”

The goal, Poe said, is to complete the term sheet within a month and a more comprehensive agreement – a memorandum of understanding – by year’s end. The Falcons hope the stadium will open in 2017.

Meanwhile, the GWCCA’s action on the College Football Hall of Fame advanced a project that began with great fanfare when the National Football Foundation decided in September 2009 to move the museum to Atlanta from South Bend, Ind. Building the attraction here has been stalled by fund-raising challenges, and organizers early this year undertook a review of the entire project.

But on Thursday, Stephenson, who took over as the project’s leader late last year, told the GWCCA board that enough sponsorship and loan commitments have been secured to move forward.

He said Atlanta Hall Management has contracts for $51.5 million in sponsorships, $43 million of which would be collected during the construction period and the rest after opening the facility. AHM also has access to $22.5 million in loans through a syndicate of three banks, led by Regions.

Stephenson put the total cost of the project at $66.9 million.That figure does not include $15 million in state funding the GWCCA expects to secure for a parking deck, road work and a new entrance to the Congress Center through the Hall of Fame.

AHM signed a ground lease last year to build the Hall on GWCCA property – the “green” parking lot on Marietta Street next to the Omni hotel – but the lease included a clause requiring that sufficient funds be raised before construction could begin.

The resolution passed by the GWCCA board Thursday stated that the group “reviewed and confirmed Atlanta Hall Management’s evidence of sponsorship and financing in the amount to fully finance 100 percent of the construction.” The resolution authorized Poe to request that the State Properties Commission “determine that the financial contingency of the ground lease has been satisfied.”

If the State Properties Commission, the Georgia State Financing and Investment Commission and the National Football Foundation sign off on various aspects of the plan at upcoming board meetings – all scheduled in early October – the GWCCA expects ground-breaking on the Hall of Fame late this year or early next year and an opening in late 2014.

Stephenson said the project has been reduced in size from original plans, “but not significantly.”

He would not name the corporate sponsors that have committed to the project, saying he is “being respectful” of their desire to announce it “in their own way.”

The National Football Foundation board several months ago reaffirmed its support of the Hall’s move to Atlanta.

“To their credit, they have been … tremendously patient with us,” Stephenson said. “But it’s because they know Atlanta is the right place for this.”

– Tim Tucker

38 comments Add your comment

Nacos

September 20th, 2012
1:17 pm

Rick James

September 20th, 2012
1:30 pm

This will be great for Atlanta..I cant wait.

CatLover

September 20th, 2012
2:07 pm

Better have a constant turnout to support this facility because as someone from South Bend, taxpayers in St. Joe County have been hit with higher taxes to keep it going during the “off” season. Good luck Fulton County taxpayers!

Glenu

September 20th, 2012
2:13 pm

With a little imagination the College Hall of Fame could be one of the top visited sports mecca sites in the United States (Cooperstown being the accepted leader). It needs leadership who understands how to translate the value of history to the present day status of the sport both college & professional. I would imagine that few in our digital world recognize the pioneers of the sport including players, coaches, administrators, broadcasters, and sportswriters. And many would be surprised to know that American football originated on college campuses some 10 years before the first “club” level football was played (which evolved into professional football).

Hbob

September 20th, 2012
2:20 pm

CatLover, Seriously? South Bend to Atlanta?

Lets see 6 million people in Indiana vs 6 million in Metro Atlanta
World’s Busiest Airport vs No Airport perhaps?
Large Convention city vs ????
I’m sure I could go on but why…

Alphare

September 20th, 2012
2:22 pm

I am thinking a business initiative with CHF: With all the displayed uniforms, they can be used as displays of a visitor’s choice to buy.

KD

September 20th, 2012
2:32 pm

“CatLover” there is no off season football in The South.

Mark

September 20th, 2012
2:44 pm

Well said KD – the difference in Atlanta and South Bend is that our traffic does not depend on Notre Dame’s season. This will just add to the events and attractions around CNN Center that are already there – great work all!!

CatLover

September 20th, 2012
2:52 pm

Yes HBOB, seriously. They’re not building a “temporary” site you know. Once the novelty wears off, and this could be 20-25 years down the road, and attendance drops off, remember that “I told you so”. And yes, they do have an airport.

rudy

September 20th, 2012
2:58 pm

CatLover, no-one goes to South Bend on purpose. That is the worst argument I have ever heard. Perhaps you should swing by the aquarium and Coke museum to see their traffic flow.

CatLover

September 20th, 2012
3:02 pm

KD and Mark – Current admission is $11-$14. How much do you think it will cost when it opens here? I don’t think it’s going to be $11-$14. I am guessing tickets will be at least $20 to keep in line with the cost of admission to the aquarium. At that rate, how many times do you think you’re going to go. I agree that Atlanta is a great place to move it. Several southern states have strong football programs and I think they will come in droves after it opens. But once the foot traffic decreases, there are still expenses that have to be paid.

KD

September 20th, 2012
3:17 pm

“CatLover”, well I spent $8.00 a pop last summer to take my family of four to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, and I probably should have asked for my change upon leaving. With that said, it would be very easy for me to spend the $20.00, and I am sure I am not going to consider asking for change upon leaving.

Buzzzed

September 20th, 2012
3:17 pm

Hopefully it won’t end up being just the SEC HOF.

CatLover

September 20th, 2012
3:23 pm

Holy cow! I am not slamming Atlanta. I have been here 36 years. Why are you slamming my hometown! Some things you just can’t explain to people. For $8 I’d go several times. How many times are you going to shell out $80 to take your family? If you don’t live in Fulton County, no worries.,

HBCU Fan

September 20th, 2012
3:24 pm

Hopefully it will showcase HBCU’s contribution to college football.

Whitey

September 20th, 2012
3:30 pm

HBCUs haven’t contributed anything but bad football and mediocre bands.

DunwoodyHeel

September 20th, 2012
3:32 pm

The college hall probably doesn’t need me and my family to visit every year. Think about all of the sports fans who pass through Atlanta every year either: on business, for a convention or trade show, to visit friends or relatives, who have a six-hour layover at the airport, who come from out of town to see the Braves, Falcons, Tech, Hawks, a Nascar race, the Aquarium, or come here for a concert or anything else. In South Bend, you only came to town to see a Notre Dame game. And since Notre Dame plays the same circle of teams each year (BC, Michigan State), you’re trying to appeal to the same circle of fans.

DawgFan

September 20th, 2012
3:34 pm

The Hall I am interested in is over in Athens called Butts Mehre…that where football lives……Yeah let Buzzed move all his ACC memoriabila in there…so now we have the janitors closet full….hahaha

GTski

September 20th, 2012
3:45 pm

Seriously, a parking deck is needed for the Hall to be built? A simple look at an aerial of downtown Atlanta shows an abundance of underused parking in downtown Atlanta.

Thrashers Fan!

September 20th, 2012
4:04 pm

Curious

September 20th, 2012
4:04 pm

I’m curious where, specifically, on Marietta Street the Hall will be located – relative to the Atlanta Chamber, CNN Center, etc.? Anyone?

Thrashers Fan!

September 20th, 2012
4:09 pm

I’d be fine if they showcased HBCU’s from a long time ago when colleges were segregated but at this point in time HBSU’s contribute nothing to college football. Most of them are just minor league football teams that don’t deserve anymore spotlight than some of the other small colleges around the country.

HBCU Fan

September 20th, 2012
4:39 pm

It’s a Hall of Fame!!! Some of you are really showing your ignorance. HBCU’s have produced some the all time greats in college football. Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Richard Dent, Harry Carson, Michael Strayhan just to name a few. HBCU’s were once what the SEC is today. Imagine the SEC without black players….it would be the MAC.

Chuck

September 20th, 2012
4:49 pm

@Whitey… Aptly named,although skinhead may be even more appropriate.

I second that!!!!

September 20th, 2012
4:49 pm

i have had the pleasure to play with (detroit lions,Robert Porche…met Harry Carson..Donnie Shell.(HBCU).Steve Mcnair..all we do is the Hall of fame!!!!!!!……

A product of an HBCU!

September 20th, 2012
4:49 pm

@Curious…. There’s a parking lot just North of STAT’s, a popular sports bar located at the corner of Marietta St and Baker St… It’s also across the street from the Hilton Garden Inn on Marietta st which is next to the ACVB.

A product of an HBCU!

September 20th, 2012
4:54 pm

It’s my understanding that the new College football Hall of Fame will also be home to the Black college football hall of fame……..I wonder who thought of that one?? smirking….

A product of an HBCU!

September 20th, 2012
5:04 pm

Ooops….. Make that just South of STAT’s………

Russ

September 20th, 2012
5:08 pm

Hey WHITEY, what a MORON!! lots of NFL hall of famers attended HBCU’s and everybody knows the majority of the african americans who didn’t was paid under the table by Division one schools to add excitement to their game which was boring as hell to watch at the time!!!

Rick James

September 20th, 2012
6:27 pm

Sadly integration has watered down HBCU talent but there is no doubt about the major contributions they’ve made.Before the SEC started signing black players it was most exciting football in the south.And there is a long list of NFL hall of famers and first round draft choices who played at HBCU’s..

Rick James

September 20th, 2012
6:41 pm

@Whitey

HBCUs haven’t contributed anything but bad football and mediocre bands.
————————————————————————————————
Just imagine for a second the SEC with no black players this weekend..Imagine them were all playing for HCBUs Where do you think most of the the NFL scouts would be? Which games would have the best attendence and highest television ratings? Which product would you honestly rather watch?

FootballTopFan (c)

September 20th, 2012
7:51 pm

Football Top Fan and college football fans across the country support the relocation of the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta.

Mr. John Stephenson and Atlanta Hall Management are to be commended for their efforts in bringing this moneymaker to the City of Atlanta.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) and executive director Frank Poe should act promptly to seal this deal.

FootballTopFan@Yahoo.com

BobDawg

September 20th, 2012
11:51 pm

This is great news for the Atlanta economy. We have tons of hotels and millions of annual visitors, and for a very long time there has been very little obvious attractions for a tourist. Centennial Park used to be Techwood Homes – the oldest projects in the US. Now we have a park surrounded by world class attractions and convention halls: Children’s Museum, Aquarium, World of Coke, Philips, Dome, CNN center, Americas Mart, WCC…

Most of our visitors are businessmen (hence all the strip clubs) and this will be on their list. The novelty will not wear off because history is made every year and this piece of prime real estate in a football town demands it. With so many college teams in Atlanta and such a tradition in the South of football which has only been enhanced with Chick-fil-a’s Kick Off games (yes, 2 games now!) there will always be an interest to go or take an out of town guest or visit while on business or go during one of the many games at any of our stadiums…UGA vs GT every other Thanksgiving at Bobby Dodd, especially the SEC championship game and Peach Bowl. In the fall that place will be packed with fans. The rest of the year I’m sure there will be a solid flow of interested out of towners. Football belongs here.

Sargent Carter

September 21st, 2012
6:37 am

300 million for the stadium of taxpayers money…another 15 million for a parking deck…Isn’t he Arthur Blank? We are giving money to a BILLIONAIRE…There is something rotten in the state of Georgia…Ah, it’s just business as usual…welfare for the rich

[...] College Football Hall of Fame moves forward; also Falcons stadium update The GWCCA board, in the first day of a two-day “planning retreat” at Lake Lanier Islands, also heard an update on negotiations for a proposed new Atlanta Falcons stadium, which would be built near the GWCCA-operated Georgia Dome. A GWCCA attorney … Read more on Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Paid in Full

September 23rd, 2012
9:03 am

The key here is that the building will be debt-free when it opens. The admission fees will not be directed to service a loan, but to operate the facility and enhance the attractions over time. This is a smart approach and led directly to the delay, but it will be recognized as a wise move years down the road. Atlanta needs to keep adding attractions like this to entice tourism. Downtown needs help and the hotels need customers, so this is a win win.

Sargent Carter do you mind

September 23rd, 2012
9:15 am

Sarge, come on man! This attraction will generate 2 million visitors annually for years. That’s a lot of frosted oranges and onion rings, so the Varsity will be busy and at full employment. Hotels will be at a higher occupancy rate than before and more will be built as well. Conventions will reconsider Atlanta because there is something NEW for them to see. As a person who has attended many conventions in Vegas and Orlando, even those places get old after the 20th time. However, great cities – Chicago, NYC – have a different atmosphere that feels less contrived than Orlando. Atlanta is getting there and good for us!

Sarge, take an economics class and stop spouting idiotic class warfare rhetoric. Marx is dead, and so are his ideas.

Bazooka Joe

September 27th, 2012
10:12 am

Rick (aka super freak !) first I agree that players from HBC have contributed greatly over the years, your example of “what if the SEC did not integrate” is a little off base because that wouldnt be the only thing that didnt integrate. Players from HBC wouldnt get the press coverage, etc etc…