Development at the Pro Football Hall of Fame could be a financial engine that powers the local economy for the next 25 years and beyond, according to an economic study that the Hall will release today. CantonRep.com gained exclusive access to the report.
Development at the Pro Football Hall of Fame could be a financial engine that powers the local economy for the next 25 years and beyond.
Results of an economic impact study support the scale of Hall of Fame Village, and if projections come true, the development would be an economic windfall for local and state economies.
Hall of Fame and community leaders will announce the results of a monthslong impact study at a news conference today. They will say Hall of Fame Village could have an economic impact of $15.3 billion to the local economy during the next 25 years and create tens of thousands of new jobs.
Most immediate would be the creation of nearly 2,800 Stark County construction jobs during the next four years, starting this summer, with an average salary of about $45,000 for the full- and part-time positions.
“I think this study is everything and more than I expected,” said David Baker, president of the Hall of Fame. “I had some expectations of what it would be because I’ve been through the experience before in Henderson, Nevada. I expected it would be a lot of jobs, economic output and tax generation.
“There’s going to be enormous work and coordination that has to come together to make these things happen. What’s important about the study is it shows it is feasibly sound, and with the right work and coordination, it can happen.”
The economic impact study was completed by Convention Sports & Leisure, an industry-leading firm used by NFL, NBA and MLB teams. The economic impact projections include new money being spent in Stark both indirectly and directly as a result of the Hall of Fame Village project. The annual economic impact to Stark County varies based on the year.
However, when Hall of Fame Village stabilizes — projected to be in 2024 — the annual impact will be $751.7 million that year in new money to the county.
In addition to the local economy, it is estimated the project will have a $14.7 billion impact on Ohio in the next 25 years, and create 11,229 jobs in the state.
“The numbers are staggering,” said Dennis Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I knew the numbers would be strong, but it reflects just how strong this development can be. Looking at this economic impact report, it also told me what a game changer this is not only for our local and regional economy, but all of Northeast Ohio.”
New tax revenue generated during the next 25 years for the county is estimated to be $307.3 million.
The report lists, for the first time, an estimate of what the Village will cost to build. Industrial Realty Group, a development firm owned by investor Stuart Lichter, believes it will cost $476 million to build eight key elements of the master plan. The Hall of Fame board of trustees has entered into a letter of intent with Lichter’s IRG to be the master developer.
“We were eager before to get this started because I knew how important this project was. When you get something like (an economic study) back, you realize what’s on your shoulders to make this happen,” Lichter said Monday afternoon. “We’re extremely anxious to get going.
“I’ve seen a ton of these studies over the years. When this study came back, it blew everybody away with the scope and breadth of this project. I don’t think anybody expected these numbers.”
Financing for the project is expected to be a joint public-private venture. A provision inserted into the state budget bill would allow for a tourism development district (up to 200 acres) to be created in Stark County to raise public money that funds the completion of the project.
Private investment is expected to make up the majority of the funding.
“I’ve said this from the beginning,” Baker said. “This is not something where anybody, whether it’s the Hall of Fame, Stu Lichter or the NFL, comes in and writes a check to make it happen. There’s a lot of hard work and coordination. This economic study shows us why this is important, and how valuable it can be.”
“I think the project will be bigger than ($476 million),” Lichter said. “We’re getting more and more interest from people who are coming to us with bigger ideas. Frankly, it keeps growing. Some of the initial estimates might be low.”
Lichter said he doesn’t anticipate a problem securing partners and financing.
“I don’t think you ever, ever say anything is done before it’s done,” Lichter said. “With the amount of interest and scope of this project, and the people behind it, the affiliation with the NFL, I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Baker and other project leaders have cautioned that renderings of Hall of Fame Village are just that. “The one thing that’s guaranteed is the final result probably won’t look like the renderings because plans change,” Baker said.
Hall of Fame Village has evolved from an original plan to renovate what used to be called Fawcett Stadium for about $25 million. IRG has projected $80 million for Fawcett, of which $10 million was donated by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, and $10 million came from state funding.
About 76 percent of the $476 million will be dedicated to three projects: $80 million for Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium; $127 million for a full-service, four-star hotel; and $157 million for what is the signature new attraction, the Hall of Fame NFL Experience. Those three projects will cost $364 million.
To justify the numbers, CSL relied on “conservative” estimates from the Hall of Fame team for visitor projections. Baker believes the new HOF Village, as a resort park and museum, can attract 1 million visitors five years from now, and spike to 3 million 10 years from now.
“Those are projections we’re using based on Hershey Park doing 3.2 million visitors, and Cedar Point did 3.8 million, and Branson, Missouri, with a town of 7,200, did 7.5 million (annually),” Baker said. “The numbers are subjective from that standpoint, but the bottom line is with just a million people, the numbers work really well. We’re at a number that’s about half of that now with all the other activities.”
The Hall of Fame attracts about 225,000 people a year. Bill Krueger, a principal in CSL, said 2015 is trending to be about 250,000 visitors. Baker is including visitors to Stark County for Hall of Fame events, and he points out, HOF Village will be a year-round destination with indoor rides and attractions, unlike amusement parks in the Midwest that generate attendance for four months.
Baker and the design team believe the addition of interactive rides — often referred to as “dark rides” — will drive guests to Canton. One example in the planning stages would be the ability to strap fans into a small ride and make them feel like they are parachuting into the stadium of their choice and delivering the game ball to a favorite player. The ride could be customized to fit each fan’s destination desire.
The Hall of Fame NFL Experience will turn the Hall of Fame into an amusement park-like setting. Thinkwell and its team of “imagineers” have been brought in to design the concepts. Thinkwell has worked with Disney, Universal Studios, Legoland, Graceland, as well as the NFL to build NFL Experience exhibits at Super Bowls.
“The difference is you have a Pro Football Hall of Fame that is essentially a visitor attraction that sustains a three- to six-hour visit by most families now,” Krueger said.
“The big goal of the master plan is to create a destination where that visit turns into a multiday visit, as opposed to people stopping who are driving by. … This aspires to be a Disney-type of attraction to appeal to families of all types.”
In addition to interactive rides, the Hall of Fame is working to attract conferences to the Village. Last month, Under Armour held a corporate gathering at the Hall.
“A lot of focus is on the bricks and mortar,” Baker said. “I get excited about the programs and how that touches people’s lives.”
The construction plan is aggressive. It is estimated that it will take six years for Hall of Fame Village to be substantially completed, with much of the brick and mortar work finished by 2019. That works out to roughly $217,000 per day on construction costs once ground is broken.
“There are an awful lot of people working on this project,” Baker said. “I was told there may be — between the construction and architect — 50 to 60 people working on this every day. I know it’s hard for people to realize that because they don’t see anything happening, but I can assure you we have a great team.”
IRG leads the development team, but is closely partnered with the local architect firm Motter & Meadows and local construction companies Fred Olivieri and Welty. HKS, the firm that designed AT&T Stadium in Dallas, among several others, is the stadium architect.
While CSL relied on assumptions from the Hall’s design team, Krueger said, the firm focused on the attendance at the proposed hotel and conference center. In year 10, the hotel would generate 51,000 hotel room nights and a total number of hotel guests of 71,000.
These are forecasts and projections. Baker and Saunier noted that if projections are off, the overall impact to the county and region still will be impressive.
“There’s nothing that I see in the master plan that gives me hesitation. It can be developed and be successful,” Saunier said. “The plan will take time to develop. It’s not going to be a light switch turned on and everything appears.
“Through the course of this development, you will see a surge in jobs. … The other thing people will see is communities coming together, governmental agencies coming together to ensure it’s successful because the results are so important, and so plausible.”
CSL prides itself on accuracy. Projects of this scope tend to change and evolve over years, which impacts study results. How accurate can a report like this be?
“That’s a question we get a lot,” Krueger said. “It’s difficult to answer other than to say … we’re doing a market study to provide a base that supports there is an incremental market for this.
“Now, once these projects get built, many of them morph or evolve, or don’t develop because something like 9/11 happens. We are more successful than most consultants with respect to realistic and conservative projections for these projects.”