August 3, 2017
by Mark Williams

In Canton, Ohio, fans gather annually to witness a spectacle unlike any other in the world of sports. Seven gods of the gridiron stand center stage before 20,000 cheering fans when they are enshrined into one of the world’s most exclusive fraternities, the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Since it was founded in 1963, only 310 individuals have achieved this honor, including this year’s inductees.

This weekend, the Hall will welcome hundreds of thousands of fans, kicking off with the Hall of Fame Game. The Arizona Cardinals will square off against the Dallas Cowboys in the new Tom Benson Stadium, one of the centerpieces of a multi-year, $700 million project that will become Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village. My firm, HKS, designed the Village. We are best known in NFL circles for our designs of the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys venues.

Design Highlights

The number one tourist attraction in Ohio, the Hall of Fame already enables fans to experience pro football in its purest form. In 2020, the year that pro football will celebrate its 100th anniversary, the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village will open to offer fans many new ways to deepen their understanding of and connection to the game. The Village will include a museum extension, a four-star hotel and conference center, an indoor waterpark, a national football and youth sports complex, the Center for Excellence, the Center for Performance and the Hall of Fame Experience. A walkable connection will link every feature of the project, not only to each other, but to Canton as well.

Our design team endeavored to celebrate the history and character of the stadium, while also modernizing it with a three-phase plan. When complete in 2018, premium environments, fan concourses and the latest in technology integration will transform the fan experience to the most intimate venue used by the NFL.

The stadium features a first-of-its-kind stage that is permanently embedded into the north grandstands. This unique design creates opportunities for interactive experiences by bringing the fans closer to the action. We also lowered the playing field by 12 feet, providing a visual connection to the Hall of Fame’s iconic dome. This design aspect allows Gold Jacket members, performers and VIPs direct access to the stage from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Versatility is a major component of the stadium’s redesign. This week, it will feature three events over four nights: an NFL preseason game on Thursday, the enshrinement ceremony on Saturday, and the stadium fills up once more on Sunday night for the Concert for Legends, featuring Toby Keith and Kid Rock. Tom Benson Stadium and the nearby youth sports complex are also used by the neighboring McKinley High School for several different sports.

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