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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Complicated Canton Relationship

  • The Pro Football Hall of Fame has no official affiliation with the NFL.
  • A separate entity in Canton, the Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Co., manages surrounding real estate.
Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has a unique structure. 

While most of its inductees played in the NFL, it has no official affiliation with the league. Neither does the Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Co., a publicly traded company that runs the surrounding facilities, overseeing hundreds of thousands of square feet, including the Hall of Fame Village, the recently renovated Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, and a new sports complex. 

This all makes for a tricky balancing act by HOF president Jim Porter since taking over for predecessor David Baker — the legendary figure who gained notoriety for bear-hugging new inductees and retired in 2021.

Canton takes the spotlight on Thursday when the NFL preseason kicks off with the Hall of Fame Game between the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets (8 p.m. ET, NBC). Record crowds are anticipated throughout the weekend’s Hall of Fame Enshrinement festivities, and a large contingent of Cleveland fans are expected to make the short drive to support 2023 inductee Joe Thomas.

Browns-Jets is expected to sell out the 18,000-plus venue — its the most in-demand HOF game ever on SeatGeek, with an average resale price of $228 — and Saturday morning’s Grand Parade could attract a record crowd of more than 250,000 ahead of the enshrinement at noon ET on ESPN, which just extended its broadcast rights for the ceremony beyond 2025.

The first two phases of Canton renovations —  via $600 million in funds — will be completed when a new hotel and football-themed waterpark open in Q3 next year, potentially in time for the 2024 HOF induction, Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Co. executive vice president Anne Graffice told Front Office Sports. A third phase may be announced later this year and could boost total funding toward $1 billion.

“To see what has happened on the campus over the past year makes everybody enthusiastic for the long-term prospects,” Pro Football Hall of Fame chief communications officer Rich Desrosiers explained to FOS.

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