NFF: ‘All systems are go’ for College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta

Architect's rendering of proposed College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta

Artist's rendering of proposed College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta (Courtesy/Atlanta Hall Management)

The National Football Foundation, which three years ago decided to move its College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta, received reassurance this week that the long-delayed attraction will be built here.

“I think it’s fair to say that all systems are go,” Steve Hatchell, National Football Foundation president and CEO, said.

Hatchell offered that assessment in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the NFF board, at a meeting Wednesday in Dallas, heard an update from the Atlanta group spearheading the Hall of Fame project.

“We were happy with what we heard,” Hatchell said. “… We’ve been after this since 2009 and our guys were very anxious to be able to say, ‘Things are really going to happen.’ And that was the report we got.”

John Stephenson, interim CEO of Atlanta Hall Management, the non-profit entity formed to build and manage the downtown football shrine, reported to the NFF board that enough sponsorship and loan commitments have been secured to proceed with construction.

Recent votes by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority board and Georgia’s State Properties Commission have cleared the way for construction to begin on GWCCA/state property near Centennial Olympic Park, Stephenson told NFF board members.

“They’ve been waiting very patiently to hear the news we got to deliver to them … that the project is green-lighted,” Stephenson said.

He reported to the NFF board that Atlanta Hall Management has signed contracts for $51.5 million in sponsorships — $43 million of it to be collected before the facility opens — and has lined up $22.5 million in bank loans. AHM hasn’t named the sponsors publicly, saying companies want to announce on their own timetables.

Stephenson put the cost of the project at $66.9 million. That doesn’t include $15 million in state funding that the GWCCA, a state agency, expects to secure for a parking deck, road work and a new entrance to the Congress Center’s Building A, which is adjacent to the hall site. The site is the Congress Center’s 2.7-acre “Green” parking lot on Marietta Street.

The next steps, Stephenson said, are to complete architectural drawings and set a date to begin construction. Originally targeted to open this year and later targeted for 2013, the Hall of Fame now plans an opening in late 2014.

“I think we all got frustrated with the timing on it,” said Hatchell, referring to the delays. “… But I never really felt — and I don’t think a lot of our guys felt — that it was in jeopardy.”

Fund-raising problems were the major cause of delay. Amid those problems, the project underwent a leadership change late last year, when Stephenson, an Atlanta lawyer, took over from Gary Stokan. Early this year, AHM undertook a reexamination of the entire project.

The Dallas-based NFF, which owns the Hall of Fame, voted in September 2009 to move the attraction to Atlanta from South Bend, Ind., where attendance has been poor. The South Bend facility will close by the end of this year. Exhibits will be stored until the hall reopens in Atlanta.

Stephenson was accompanied to the NFF meeting by GWCCA executive director Frank Poe, other GWCCA officials and AHM chairman Steve Robinson, who is Chick-fil-A’s executive vice president of marketing.

– Tim Tucker

63 comments Add your comment

Clay

October 11th, 2012
4:21 pm

Good news! Can’t wait to see it when it opens!

North-by-southeast

October 11th, 2012
4:30 pm

This is such a good idea, especially since the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Golf Hall of Fame were such raging successes. Yes, laying off teachers is totally worth the state chipping in on another Hall of Fame, and soon another stadium.

unreal

October 11th, 2012
4:34 pm

what a waste of time, money, real estate

Little Luke and Pepino

October 11th, 2012
4:41 pm

As long as tax dollars aren’t being used and gov isn’t securing the loans, then I guess I don’t care. I do wonder why it isn’t going to a state with good college football, like Alabama, Ohio or Texas.

Mikey D.

October 11th, 2012
4:41 pm

They should build the thing, and then padlock it shut until the idiots in charge of the College Football HOF finally do the right thing and enshrine the late, great Erk Russell. Sorry, but no HOF can be considered legit while ignoring one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.

anonymous

October 11th, 2012
4:43 pm

college football y’all. people come here for these games. they stay in hotels. spend money and have fun!
Let’s make atlanta a place they WANT to come to, so treat these guests well!
And maybe most or half are kids, young students growing up!
Take care of them!

Mike

October 11th, 2012
4:43 pm

Glad to see this coming to Atlanta. (Go Buckeyes!)

Hank44

October 11th, 2012
4:44 pm

The GA Music HOF and Sports HOF failed because it was in Macon and I am orignally from there. In general people come to Atlanta on business/conventions and the College football HOF will get more foot traffic than the Sports and Music HOF ever did.

businessownertaxper

October 11th, 2012
4:45 pm

I’m sure all of those contractors who fleeced the City for the $1.5 billion in giveaways for Concourse F will be lined up for this…to line their pockets again. May be Jesse or Barry O will lead their parade next Spring when neither has anything else to do!

Rick James

October 11th, 2012
4:57 pm

@unreal

what a waste of time, money, real estate
——————————————————————–
Either (A) You dont live within the city limits of Atlanta or (B) You think they should have given money for this project to homeless people..

BlueDot

October 11th, 2012
4:58 pm

$22.5 million in bank loans? As the old saying goes, if you owe the bank $1,000 and can’t pay it, you have a problem; if you owe the bank $1 million and can’t pay it, the bank has a problem. We’ll see.

sb_81st

October 11th, 2012
4:58 pm

The Centennial Park Area will be so congested in the next 5 years…. smh

JT

October 11th, 2012
5:01 pm

@ businessownertaxper
October 11th, 2012
4:45 pm

Maybe you can learn how to write and spell above the first grade level.

Tim

October 11th, 2012
5:02 pm

Fitting that it will reside in Georgia, home of arguably the greatest college football player of all time, Mr. Herschel Walker.

gunga din

October 11th, 2012
5:11 pm

another white elephant boondoggle to waste tax $$. give it a few years and they will come begging to the city and state for operating funds because it won’t pay for itself. guess ATL didn’t learn anything form the Underground fiasco. !!!

Terri Jones

October 11th, 2012
5:13 pm

Oh, wow, we really need a “FOOTBALL” home of fame………….. and less teachers to teach our children…What a way to go Georgia……

Dave H.

October 11th, 2012
5:15 pm

This will be a huge attraction. Anyone who debates that (or compares it to the state HOFs in Macon) doesn’t have a clue. And at very little cost to taxpayers to boot.

whiteboy

October 11th, 2012
5:43 pm

@unreal….great news…you don’t have to go to it….

FootballTopFan

October 11th, 2012
6:18 pm

Congratulations to Steve Hatchell of the National Football Foundation (NFF), Atlanta Hall Management and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) for their efforts in bringing the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta, Georgia.

This MONEYMAKER $$$ will be a great asset to Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

Football Top Fan and football fans worldwide anxiously await the grand opening of this magnificent shrine to college football.

FootballTopFan@Yahoo.com

ATL Native & College Football Fanatic

October 11th, 2012
6:45 pm

Why would any family want to come to a cesspool like Downtown Atlanta and be harassed by the city’s world-INfamous, jaywalking, jive-talking, super-aggressive, urine-scented panhandlers (& 0bama Supporters) just to see a college football museum?

The antithesis of King Midas, everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, the City of Atlanta and its crooked, incompetent government touches turns to feces.

C from Marietta

October 11th, 2012
6:54 pm

@ ATL Native & College Football Fanatic

Plenty of People Get over yourself.

StayAway

October 11th, 2012
7:00 pm

ATL Native & College Football Fanatic…., we are glad that people like you don’t want to come to downtown Atlanta. Go back into the hole that you crawled out of.

Burroughston Broch

October 11th, 2012
7:13 pm

Look at the high cost and low performance of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, and then look me in the eye and tell me how the CFHOF will not be the same.
The Charlotte taxpayers are on the hook for their white elephant’s losses, and they are squirming.

Mr Bill

October 11th, 2012
7:24 pm

I’m sure no politics will be involved with who gets nominated right.

bill goldberg

October 11th, 2012
7:41 pm

Way to go Mr. John Stephenson!

Matt B.

October 11th, 2012
7:45 pm

The state funding is for infrastructure improvements (roadwork and a enw GWCC entrance) and a parking deck that will be available to serve the whole area, not just the HOF. The HOF will be funded by the sponsorships and the bank loans, which are not sponsored by the City. It took so long to get going because of the fact that the construction of the HOF specific structures will be funded privately and capital had to be met to secure the remainder of the financing from banks. Considering that they had to raise $44M prior to commmencning and are only borrowing half of that, I would expect the debt service would be pretty manageable. This is not the city sponsored boondoggle that NASCAR conned Charlotte (and almost conned Atlanta) into building. If the City had been sponsoring it, it would have been built in 2010 with irresponsible funding. Creidt to the NFF for funding it properly and to the city and GWCC for not giving a green-light until funding minimums were met from sponsorships. I for one am looking forward to its opening and taking my family and friends visiting from out of town to it when it opens.

whydowntown

October 11th, 2012
8:11 pm

Why does it have to be downtown. Atlanta crime will keep alot of people away. Why not build it in the North close to the Falcon Training camp. Less traffic and lots of open land.

spider

October 11th, 2012
8:25 pm

build it and they will not come

P Rose

October 11th, 2012
8:47 pm

Because all roads lead to downtown. The world does not revolve around you in Flowery Branch. I live downtown in the tourist district, just two blocks from the Aquarium, the World of Coke, and the future site of the CFHOF. I’ve been here for ten years and have never been the victim of crime, knock on wood. There’s the Dome within walking distance, as well as Philips Arena, and Grant Field is a short walk away as well; people come to see games at those venues, and they stay in the downtown hotels, and they’ll want to visit the CFHOF while they’re here. What have you got in Flowery Branch to attract these people? Less traffic and open land? I guess they’ll want to stay at the EconoLodge and dine at the Waffle House off I-85. Woo hoo, what a vacation.

atlantafalcon

October 11th, 2012
8:57 pm

whydowntown…because atlanta is NOT forsyth,qwinnett,etc….atlanta IS downtown!!!..stay in the burbs!

jarvis

October 11th, 2012
9:01 pm

@whydowntown, you don’t have a future as a city planner my friend.

dave

October 11th, 2012
9:19 pm

The only way to keep this region forward is to invest in downtown, no matter what the project. If downtown fails, then the whole region fails, economically and otherwise. I don’t know why so many people here don’t get that. In other cities, suburbanites WANT to see their cities succeed and support their cities. Downtowns in major cities are thriving, in places like Chicago and DC and Boston, and even closer to home in places like Charlotte and Nashville.

A thriving downtown district lifts up an entire region and maybe someday we’ll get that down here. Centennial Park is one of the few city jewels that we have, we might as well try to enhance it and build upon it. It’s one of the few places that draws tourists and others downtown.

unreal

October 11th, 2012
10:53 pm

Waaaah! I don’t like football!!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

Susan Harrell

October 11th, 2012
10:58 pm

Now let me see … Will it include a wing dedicated to the most kids abused by a college coach? How the winningest coach in college football history ignored the pleas of less fortunate children? The colleges that don’t actually graduate many football players? The colleges that have dumbed down courses catering to football athletes? Has anyone even considered that football may be on its way out considering revelations about dementia in later life. Can lawsuits at the college level be far behind that of NFL players?

blazerdawg

October 11th, 2012
11:00 pm

Was able to spend some time walking around downtown today – it was great! Beautiful weather, lots of energy on the streets, couple of friendly nods and greetings, and had some awesome tacos at TDS.

Bring it

October 11th, 2012
11:16 pm

Moving the College Football HOF to Atlanta is brilliant, will be a boost to the convention economy, and will further the tourist corridor along Centennial Park. Atlanta needs more tourist attractions and this one is a natural. Concentrating these venues near each other is absolutely the right strategy. Flowery Branch? Please. That is laughable. Macon would be a wiser choice than that. If they add a good restaurant to keep us locals interested in being repeat visitors, the HOF will not fail, it will be a huge success.

cat shabazz

October 11th, 2012
11:30 pm

How about using this money to help out Morris Brown, rebuilding broken housing, better meals for children at schools, laptops for needy or free internet services in public housing, or gang intervention. Bass hall of fame using tax payer money in Perry Ga, push thru by our former cracker ass governor in his cracker ass home town. This is not infrastructure investment, this is higher expenditure by adding some boondoggle museum or hall of fame that you have to cover added cost to the system. How does this help the poor in this state?

Ready for the Hawks to begin the season. Rebuilding but like Ferry and his plans to bring championship to ATL.

Samantha

October 11th, 2012
11:37 pm

this will never work in atlanta, i’m sure mitt romney is behind this!

cat shabazz

October 11th, 2012
11:47 pm

ATL is doing better and welcome more development like Atlantic Station and affordable apartments and condos. Would like to see more investment in real public transportation, not the joke Marta. And better and wider roads to help folks get all over this city. Also would like to see this money spent on teachers salaries to attract best teachers that focus on really educating inner city childs as to be honest that are starting off behind due to family breakdown and high number of illigiimate children with mothers with a lot of kids by different fathers. These children are raised to be slaves to handouts and expect it.

cat shabazz

October 11th, 2012
11:56 pm

Romney is a fool and Obama is an idiot. Unemployment in the black community is highest and neither have real solution. But let’s spend money that could actually impact a child on a hall of fame for football?

Obama and his idiots need to go, but Romney?

Need manufacturing jobs in this state and closer in Atlanta,

But we spend money on a Hal of fame that will cost tax money to operate. Money that could go to solutions.

CMR

October 12th, 2012
12:07 am

As the coach of the UGA bulldogs and having the best looking hair and tan, I should be in the College Football Hall Of Fame.

Ogeechee Dawg

October 12th, 2012
12:13 am

Hey cat shabazz – you need to post more often as you are entertaining. I agree, Obama is an idiot.

As for the College Football HOF in Atlanta, this is great as Atlanta is the capital of college football. Think about it, kickoff classics, SEC title Game, Chick fil A bowl, GT home games will provide visitors and locating near the GA Aquarium, World of Coke, Centennial Park will attract visitors to
Spend money in Atlanta.

People in the south are crazy about college football. This will be an attraction, not a money sucker.

Agree with your comments on the Bass Fishing Museum in Perry. Good ole boy politics at it’s best.

Humbug

October 12th, 2012
12:34 am

Just a reminder that it is moving from South Bend because attendance there was less than acceptable. Was Atlanta the only city that applied? Is this another Underground that people failed to support because it was dangerous to go there? I hope it is successful but I doubt that anything that depends on attendance in Atlanta can be successful.

slimseville

October 12th, 2012
12:47 am

I think it’s a good idea. All of the people who come to the dome for the SEC championship and chick fil a games would be in the vicinity every year. Not to mention football fans who come to the Falcons games and just general visitors to the city who may want to go.

Pootious Maximus

October 12th, 2012
4:15 am

The hall will be a great addition to our bowl and championship games. Maybe we can pull the NCAA championship game with this addition.

Fulldawg

October 12th, 2012
6:44 am

Another “go fish”

Jimmy Baron

October 12th, 2012
7:41 am

I went to the College Football HOF in South Bend the morning of a Notre Dame home game. There were 10 people there and 80,000 a mere 5 miles away. It was lame.

WW

October 12th, 2012
7:55 am

Can’t wait to see the Paterno statue there!

AU Man

October 12th, 2012
8:11 am

Good ideas from Atlanta’s “leaders” are rare. This is an exception. I think the College Football Hall of Fame will be a raging success. I just hope the chicken sandwich boys keep their greasy paws off of it. I would be compelled to avoid at all costs the chick fil a hall of fame.

Selah

October 12th, 2012
8:23 am

This College Football Hall of Fame should be in a TRUE College Football city & mecca with a rich heritage in the game where the sport is truly appreciated and respected, namely Birmingham or even Tuscaloosa.

Atlanta is nothing but hip-hop thuggery and the smell of human waste while focusing much more on “pro” sports than anything else.