HOF to be located near Olympic park

ATLANTA -- When the College Football Hall of Fame settles into its new home, it will be an interactive experience that celebrates the sights and sounds of the game.

Officials unveiled the site for the Hall of Fame on Friday, along with renderings of the facility that is scheduled to open in March 2013.

The pictures showed a three- or four-story building that resembles a football on the outside, an entrance that recreates the experience of walking through a stadium tunnel, and an open-air atrium that gives visitors the feeling of actually being on the field.

"This will not be a museum," said Gary Stokan, who is president and CEO of the new facility. "This will be an attraction. It's got to be interactive, entertaining and engaging."

The hall is moving from South Bend, Ind., where it's been plagued by low attendance. Atlanta officials project a half-million visitors a year at the new facility, which will be built on a parking lot sandwiched between the city's massive convention center and Centennial Olympic Park.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for next August.

"This is not going to be a Hall of Fame filled with busts," Stokan promised. "When you hit Archie Manning's name, you'll be able to see his best plays, you'll be able to read what he's doing now, you'll be able to see all his statistics."

The new Hall of Fame was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2012, but moved back the opening to the following spring -- in conjunction with the Final Four basketball championship being held at the nearby Georgia Dome.

Working in a difficult economy, Stokan conceded that only about $31 million has been raised for a facility that will cost at least $50 million. He expects fundraising to pick up now that a site has been chosen and corporations can see exactly what the finished product will look like.

The state of Georgia has committed to bonds totaling $10 million, and the city of Atlanta plans to kick in $8 million from its economic development fund as well as tax credits. Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A are the only corporations to provide funding so far, but Stokan said he's confident that other Atlanta-based companies, such as Home Depot and UPS, will step up.

The remaining $19 million must be raised privately.

"Our fundraising will start in earnest in January," Stokan said. "Now we can get after it."

Outgoing Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who played football at the University of Georgia, believes the Hall of Fame will be another impressive tourist attraction around Centennial Olympic Park.

The wildly popular Georgia Aquarium is located nearby, as is the World of Coca-Cola and a children's museum. There are also plans to build a civil and human rights museum just north of the park.

"Now that's a place I want to take my grandchildren," Perdue said.

The governor also gave a nod to his athletic background.

"For an old walk-on, this might be as close to the College Football Hall of Fame as I ever get," Perdue joked. "I want to take advantage of it."