Plan for Hall of Fame Village: a Disney World for football

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              FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2018, file photo, Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker speaks during halftime of an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders in Santa Clara, Calif.   Baker wants the Hall of Fame village to become a Disney World for football. To that end, a merger is planned to boost financing. The price tag has risen to nearly $900 million.  (AP Photo/John Hefti, File)
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CANTON, Ohio (AP) — David Baker envisions the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village as a Disney World for football.

Baker, the hall president, and Mike Crawford, the village’s CEO, hope to have construction resume before the end of the year. That’s provided a planned merger with an acquisition company goes through. The infusion of money from Gordon Pointe Acquisition Corp. would allow that.

“There’s a lot of capital they can bring in,” says Crawford, who oversaw the creation of Downtown Disney and Disney Shanghai. “It’s a project that will never be finished, like Disney World. When we’re ready to go, put shovels in the ground — we’ll try by the end of this year. Once things go, they start to go quickly.”

That has not been the case with the village, whose price tag has risen to nearly $900 million. More than $200 million has been spent.

The venture will include a hotel with an indoor water park; retail stores and an entertainment complex; a field house that can be used for indoor sports as well as conventions; a research and development center.

Already completed are the modernization of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which has been greeted with widespread approval, and construction of fields for youth sports across the complex.

“It’s going to be a state-of-the-art facility,” Baker says. “It’s going to be the first smart sports and entertainment village in the world.”

James Dolan, CEO of Gordon Pointe, praises the boost the hall has given to the Canton area, where the NFL was born a century ago.

“This is a singular investment opportunity to participate in the popularity and growth of one of the most powerful brands in sports,” Dolan says.

Crawford believes the second phase of development will lead to others.

“We’ve spent a lot of money, $220-225 million in phase one,” he says. “It’s time to build the destination in phase two: hotels, water parks, places people can live. This is a great step toward advancement of this goal.”

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