Behind the Scenes of the $500 Million Redevelopment of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

The vision for the redeveloped Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, known as the Hall of Fame Village, has been described by some people close to the project as the Disney World of football. While football fanatics and other visitors to the Pro Football Hall of Fame will likely marvel at the many projected improvements, they likely have little understanding of everything that had to happen behind the scenes of the $500 million redevelopment project in order to make it a reality. By the time the first phase of the project was announced last fall, Walter | Haverfield real estate attorneys were already deeply immersed in the sizable complexities of the project.

A major challenge facing our real estate team was the structuring of the deal, not only because of the large number of parties involved, but also the complexities of a true public-private partnership involving a private developer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the City of Canton, Stark County Port Authority and two school districts (Canton and Plain Local). The fact that a large portion of the project involves land owned by the Canton City School District presented another set of complications because school districts are subject to special rules and restrictions regarding the transfer of real property. Such ownership made the public financing component of the project twice as complex.

Another challenge was that Walter | Haverfield's client, master developer Industrial Realty Group (IRG), had formed a joint venture with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Trustees. The Stark County Port Authority was additionally brought into the ownership structure of the project to qualify the project for TIFF financing and a special sales exemption.

Valued at roughly $500 million, the sheer size of the project additionally made it one of the larger redevelopment projects in the region. Projected to be under construction for more than five years, the Hall of Fame Village redevelopment includes numerous phases, each representing its own set of challenges. The first phase, which is expected to be completed by August in time for the 2016 Enshrinement Ceremony and nationally televised NFL/Hall of Fame Game, focuses on improvements to the Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Three of nine new youth fields are also part of Phase I and are expected to be completed within the next 12 months. Ground will likely be broken to begin Phase II construction after the August ceremonies and will include further stadium improvements, along with work on the new Main Street retail area which will feature a new hotel, restaurants and shops.

As part of the project's overhaul are significant improvements to local infrastructure, including underground utilities, new parking areas, streetscape, sidewalks and electric line relocations. In order to proceed with future phases, it is expected that 100 parcels of land in Plain Township still need to be acquired and developed in time for a projected 2019 project completion date.

This is not the first time that the Walter | Haverfield real estate, public law and tax attorneys were challenged with such a complex task. In addition to the firm's experience launching a number of large redevelopment projects in and around downtown Cleveland, Walter | Haverfield has been working with IRG to move forward on a number of phases for the Goodyear renovations in Akron. The Canton challenge has been more significant, however, inasmuch as it requires satisfying the financial and legal needs of a city, two school districts, the Port Authority, a non-profit organization and numerous private partners, as well as the legal procurement of nearly 100 parcels of land.

Fortunately, Walter | Haverfield had the necessary resources in-house to not only satisfy the various partners, but to also get the deal done before the end of 2015. The year-end completion translates into significant tax advantages as it allowed the tax exemption to begin already in 2015.

Contact: Nick R. Catanzarite