College Football Hall of Fame

When it comes to enjoying all that college football has to offer, the sport, its competitors and the stadium are only a fraction of the experience. Between tailgating, time-tested fan traditions, marching bands, student sections and countless other aspects associated only with college football, game days are an event unmatched in other sports.

President and CEO Gary Stokan and Atlanta Hall Management Inc. are responsible for luring the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta. Stokan wanted to encapsulate this one-of-a-kind experience while honoring the game’s rich history of outstanding performers, institutional pioneers and momentous occasions, while educating fans about the game’s history.

“This will be what I’ve termed an ‘edutainseum,’” Stokan says. “What that term is really meant to show is this will be a highly educational, highly entertaining museum that is an attraction using the content of college football. This will be highly interactive, highly immersing and high tech because anything less in this day and time would fail to meet our mission to provide an entertaining game-day experience for the consumer. We think the game-day experience is what differentiates college football from high school and professional football.”

Atlanta Hall Management has signed a license and development agreement with the National Football Foundation (NFF) – the organization that owns the rights to the college football hall of fame – to construct and operate a new facility in Atlanta. The agreement calls for a museum of more than 50,000 square feet for a minimum of $50 million.

The license agreement lasts 30 years, with four five-year incremental agreements in place thereafter. Atlanta Hall Management is scheduled to break ground on the project soon, and the grand opening is slated for 2013.

The hall of fame will be located on a 2.5-acre lot in downtown Atlanta that also will house a six-level parking deck as well as a connector into Hall A of the Georgia World Congress Center, the fourth-largest convention center in the United States, and will be built by general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie.

From Vision to Reality

The vision to bring the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta in the football-crazed southeastern United States started about seven years ago. Stokan says he and George Morris – a member of the hall’s class of 1981 and a volunteer with the Chick-fil-A Bowl – reached out to the National Football Foundation (NFF) to ask that its members consider Atlanta for the hall’s new home.

The pitch made to then NFF President Bob Casciola and longtime board member George Weiss included selling the NFF on the Centennial Olympic Park facilities that already existed in Atlanta. At the time, the city of Atlanta was building the now-completed world’s largest aquarium and the World of Coke, a museum dedicated to Atlanta-based Coca-Cola. These were additions to the Centennial Park area of Atlanta that already served as home to the Georgia World Congress Center, the CNN News Center, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which will break ground in late 2011. After the NFF changed presidents and Steve Hatchell took the reins, Stokan persistently continued to work with Hatchell and Weiss to finalize the official move. In September 2009, all parties reached an agreement to move the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta.

Another aspect of the pitch was the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which is held annually in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. After Stokan – who also serves as president and CEO of Chick-fil-A Bowl Inc. – was unable to add the Chick-fil-A Bowl to the Bowl Championship, he instead launched the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game as the official kickoff for the college football season.

In the last three years, this game has served this purpose, pitting two highly ranked teams with ESPN’s College Game day coverage and fall festival. In 2013, the College Football Hall of Fame will add its annual enshrinement ceremonies to the day’s events, which will include a charity golf tournament, parade, a fan festival and concert. Corporate support provided by Chick-fil-A and Coca-Cola, as well as a financial contribution by the Chick-fil-A Bowl, have created solid financial backing for the hall project.

Recreating the Feeling

The mission for the design of the College Football Hall of Fame originates in the ambiance that exists on campuses across the United States on any given game day. Atlanta Hall Management and its development and project management partner Cousins-Cude charged architect tvs design-Turner Properties and exhibit designer Gallagher & Associates with executing this mission.

Tvs’s Kevin Gordon and Gallagher & Associates’ Patrick Gallagher started by designing the structure from the inside out, starting with a scale replica of a football field in the center of the building. The exhibits will flow around the field, and the signature aspect of the outside façade is in the shape of a football.

“Instead of architecture that started with a black box with exhibits in it, we challenged Gallagher and tvs to build an experience from the inside out so the building and exhibit designs are one,” Stokan says. “Unlike any other facility I’ve toured, we started with that initiative of really making the building and exhibits flow from an experience standpoint. It was a special challenge put to both of them. They formed a great team to make that happen.”

The facility was designed for use by the general public, as well. Several areas within the hall of fame can be used for special events. The College Football Hall of Fame also will serve as an adjunct facility for the Georgia World Congress. “It was very important in the beginning to work with Central Atlanta Progress [the downtown improvement district] and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau to foster the growth of tourism downtown,” Stokan says. “We discussed a lot of the synergies that were to be developed, where it would be built and how it would be used.”

Much like the athletes whose accomplishments will grace the exhibits of the College Football Hall of Fame, this project will put up some impressive numbers for the economic stability of the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Stokan says during the two-year period of construction, 884 jobs will be created for an economic impact of $90.4 million. The state of Georgia will earn $4.9 million in tax revenue during that period, and the city of Atlanta will earn $1.8 million. In the first five years of operation, Stokan says the hall of fame will sustain 514 jobs for an economic impact of $212 million.

True Partnership

Stokan credits the partnership between the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, corporate support and the construction and development companies for bringing the College Football Hall of Fame to Atlanta. “Other than the Olympics, this is one of the best public-private partnerships this city has seen in the last 15 years,” Stokan says. “It took a various and vast conglomeration of teamwork to make this become a reality.” Other important partners for the Hall of Fame project include tvsdesign.

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