After scrapping earlier plans and starting over, organizers of a College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta said Monday the oft-delayed project will break ground in late January.
Backers of the hall, which originally was supposed to be up and running last year, said at a press conference that the $66.5 million, 94,000-square-foot facility will open in late 2014 on what is now the green lot of the Georgia World Congress Center across from Centennial Olympic Park.
It’s the first date set for the project since last February, when officials with Atlanta Hall Management said they were reassessing the football shrine in Atlanta.
“The project is in a much more stable, secure predictable spot right now because we basically analyzed this thing twice,” said John Stephenson, president and chief executive officer of AHM, which will own and run the attraction. “And yes, it’s later than we said originally, but that’s OK. It’s still coming.”
The hall was announced with great fanfare in September 2009, but difficulty finding sponsors delayed construction. That changed as the economy slowly rebounded and companies — including AT&T, Coca-Cola and Omni Hotels — began committing money, organizers said.
Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, will put in $1 million from a fund to assist projects with economic benefits, while Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A is kicking in $6 million, with another $5 million from the Chick-fil-A Bowl. AHM did not release details on other sponsorships.
The state also allotted $15 million for the project to build a parking deck and other infrastructure needs.
“We’ve got over $52 million in sponsorships now,” Stephenson said. “There are other sponsors that haven’t authorized their exposure yet. They want to do it on their own marketing terms.”
Monday’s news came on the same day that the current hall in South Bend, Ind., closed its doors for good. It’s lower-than-expected attendance forced the National Football Foundation to seek another site.
Artifacts — save for a small portion that is used for traveling exhibits — will be put in storage for the next two years.
“They have been good partners,” College Football Hall of Famer and NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “For a Notre Dame football game, a lot of people go to South Bend. Other times of the year, not as much. They just don’t have (the number) of people that would be here.”
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