College football’s new Hall of Fame is $19 million short of its $50 million funding goal, eight months before the facility’s scheduled groundbreaking in downtown Atlanta.
The hall, which is being relocated from South Bend, Indiana, and is set to open in March 2013, has raised $31 million for the project through state and city funding, contributions from Coca-Cola Co. and Atlanta-based sandwich chain Chick-fil-A Inc., and private investors.
Atlanta Hall Management Inc., the group created to oversee construction, today unveiled the location and artist renditions of the 50,000 square-foot facility. It will be built adjoining the Georgia World Congress Center, within walking distance of the Georgia Aquarium and the 3-year-old World of Coca-Cola, and overlooking Centennial Olympic Park.
“We needed to get a site first before we could really show corporations the opportunity,” Gary Stokan, the group’s chief executive officer, said at a news conference in Atlanta. “The fundraising will start in earnest in January. ‘‘Now that we have a site, we can get after it.’’
The group plans to meet with local and national companies, including Home Depot Inc., United Parcel Service Inc. and AT&T Inc., over the coming months to raise additional funds, Stokan said. Companies are being asked to commit at least $5 million each in a combination of cash and marketing, he said.
‘‘We needed to be able to show them what the facility will be like,’’ Stokan said.
The hall will feature an open-air courtyard resembling a football field, surrounded by video screens and stadium-style lights. The interactive facility will be built to attract convention attendees in the city as well as college football fans. The hall will work in conjunction with the aquarium, World of Coke and other area attractions to draw visitors, Stokan said. The group anticipates 500,000 annual visitors to the hall.
‘‘This is not going to be a museum, this is going to be an attraction,’’ Stokan said in an interview. ‘‘We’re creating our own Disney World.’’
The South Bend hall, which is owned by the National Football Foundation, is scheduled to close at the end of 2011. The hall attracted about 60,0000 visitors a year since moving to South Bend from Kings Mills, Ohio in 1995, about 90,000 less than the foundation had projected, according to the Associated Press.
Foundation officials said the move to Georgia’s capital will help attract more visitors. Atlanta will host the Southeastern Conference championship game between Auburn University and the University of South Carolina tomorrow, and stages college football’s annual kickoff game, sponsored by Chick-fil-A.
The first inductees into the new hall will be announced in September 2012 as part of weekend kickoff games featuring Auburn versus Clemson University and the University of Tennessee against North Carolina State.
The hall will open six months later, a month before Atlanta is scheduled to host college basketball’s Final Four tournament, Stokan said.
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