College football attraction to open a year later than expected in Atlanta

The College Football Hall of Fame will not open in Atlanta until sometime in the spring of 2013, several months later than originally announced, said the city leader who is bringing the attraction here.

Gary Stokan, president and chief executive officer of Atlanta Hall Management, the 501c non-profit entity that will oversee the facility, said architectural and design officials have concluded that more time will be needed to build the facility than a fall 2012 deadline would allow.

"It, construction-wise, wasn't feasible for the architect and the designers to do what they needed to do and have it open by 2012," Stokan said.

He added opening spring 2013 would also benefit from foot traffic from the NCAA Men's Final Four basketball championship, which will be held in Atlanta at that time.

The timing of the hall's opening has become a point of discussion because the National Football Foundation and the city of South Bend, Ind., the current home of the college football attraction, are in talks to keep the museum open there through 2012 so the NFF can have a home for its annual enshrinement ceremonies. The hall is currently scheduled to close in South Bend in 2011.

"There are some current conversations between the city and the National Football Foundation for the hall to stay here through 2012," said Lisa Klunder, the hall's executive director. She said she did not know where the discussion stands or when a decision would be made.

Stokan said the NFF is exploring alternatives because the Atlanta facility will not be constructed in time for the induction ceremony.

"If South Bend does not want to stay open for the enshrinement ceremony, we have told the NFF we will do it," Stokan said.

However, he did not know where the ceremony would be held in Atlanta if South Bend declines to stay open.

"We haven't even gotten that far yet," Stokan said.

Atlanta officials announced the hall's move to Atlanta late last September. The move is an attempt to improve attendance at the attraction, which opened in the early 1990s. After an initial attendance high, the South Bend facility fell well below expectations, despite being located in the home city of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.