Wednesday, July 6, 2016


UPDATE:  11:56 AM

A reader's response:

Thank you for your reporting of the status of the project.  The puffing of the Hall of Fame project reminds me of the similar puffing of the Utica Shale efforts.  Utica Shale was going to be the saving grace for a city that is in economic collapse.  Our politicians lined up to praise the efforts and then Mayor Healy rebranded the city as the Utica Capital, which should rightly belong to Carrollton, Ohio.  Now it's a bust and the promises are gone just like the mayor who promoted the myth.

We seem to see the same occurring with the Hall of Fame project.  At a high cost to taxpayers, the project is supposedly moving forward but as you point out the money  doesn't seem to be there.  You are the only one questioning the finances as the Canton Repository with its close relationship with the Hall of Fame seeks to downplay it. 

Stadiums are a drain on public money especially from local governments that don't have the resources to spend.  For example, in Hamilton County, Ohio, where a combined $805 million in taxpayers money built the new football and baseball stadiums, police and education budgets have been slashed, while one in seven people live below the poverty line.

It is interesting that in her book, Public/Private Partnerships for Major League Sports Facilities, Judith Grant Long, associate professor of Urban Planning at the Havard University Graduate School of Design, shatters previous conceptions of just how much money, the public has poured into these deals.  By the late 19902, the first wave of damning economic studies came to light but afterwards from 2001 to 2010, new sports facilities were opened receiving $130 million more, on average public cost for a new facility than in previous years.

Simply stated, for every out of county fan that makes the journey to Canton for the Hall of Fame game, other non-fans or local fans who can't afford to go find something else to do.  All in all, building a stadium is a poor use of hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.


A SCPR source in a position to assess by virtue of contacts with those who have an inkling of what may being going on inside the high councils of the Canton-based Pro Football Hall of Fame—with regard to the "financing" of the reconstruction of the formerly name Fawcett Stadium (now Benson Stadium)— is conjecturing that while the game of August 7th is going to go on, there may be a proverbial "sh** hitting the fan" once the festivities of the weekend of the 7th are over.

The Report's source believes that a number of contractors have been working stadium without being paid on the hope and prayer that at end of the day the money will be there for them to get paid.

All that the SCPR is aware of as being publicly revealed is that some $25 million has been pledged/raised to start the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village Project (HOFVP) with the stadium rehab.  The cost of the stadium rework is thought to be at least $80 million,  if not higher.  The total HOFVP  "in final form" cost is estimated to be in excess of $500 million (a half a billion dollars, folks) to reach completion.  The estimated completion date is in about two years.

Of the $25 million, some $15 million is public money:  $5 million from the city of Canton, $10 million from the state of Ohio (through state Rep. Kirk Schuring's effort).

It is reported that the stadium phase of the HOFVP is half completed.

If the completion percentage to day is accurate, it should mean that $40 or million is payable to the contractors to the work.

The reported revenue-taken-in-so-far numbers do not quite add up to $40 million, no?

Other than accounting specifically for the $15 million in public money, there are questions of how an $80 million plus expenditure can a person in one's wildest dreams imagine that a capital outlay of this magnitude can in our lifetimes be financially viable in the sense of being self supporting.

In April, the SCPR asked HOF executive Pete Fierle for an accounting of the public monies being spent on the stadium project.  He seemingly was going to get that data for The Report.  But here it is four months later and nada, absolutely nada from Fierle or any other HOF official on how taxpayer dollars are being used in the HOFVP.

Recently, in what the SCPR deems to be a "puff piece"  (Baker, Lichter forge friendship through HOF Village project, June 27, 2016) by Repository reporter Todd Porter seems to skate around difficulties that HOF officials are encountering in sheparding the project.  His focus is the relationship between HOFVP CEO David Baker and master across-the-nation developer Stu Lichter.

However, a critical reading of the article does offer some clues that the SCPR's source may be on to something, to wit:

"Believe me, there have been bumps along the way. You don't do a project like this without bumps, but whenever something has gone off the scale, he's calm. He keeps everybody focused."  [Steve Strawbridge, a senior vice president at the Hall and a member of Baker's management team.]
There have been problems behind the scenes in the first year of the Hall of Fame Village project. Baker and Lichter both acknowledged issues, such as costs and zoning, that need to be worked through.
"And there will be more problems,” Baker said. "Everybody is attempting to do more than we ever dreamed of doing, but it's the people who solve those problems, not the quality of the project."
Lichter said he has questioned the prices of some things, but then he saw the programming behind the brick-and-mortar parts of the project, and he understood.
It goes without saying that every Stark Countian has high hopes that the completion of the project will be flawless and on time.

More importantly it is crucial to maintaining public confidence in the viability of the project that whatever taxpayer dollars are spent on it are accounted for in chapter and verse specificity.

So far, it is no go on the accountability factor.

It is amazing that The Repository nor anyone in public officialdom is pressing for accountability for tax dollars being spent.

And, of course, we should all be on the outlook for the development of a critical need for the taxpayers being asked to ante up more public money.

So it will be interesting to see whether or not the SCPR's source proves to be credible in projecting "troubles ahead" once the August 7th Pro Football Hall and Fame annual festivities come and go.

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