A rendering of the completed College Football Hall of Fame.
Hordes of sports fans will likely converge on Atlanta next fall, as work continues on the highly anticipated College Football Hall of Fame. The $67 million facility will top out at more than 96,000 sq. ft. (8,918.7 sq m) and will feature approximately 30,000 sq. ft. (2,787 sq m) of exhibit space. An interior football field will serve as a programming and event venue.
“Our model contemplates 500,000 visitors annually,” said John Stephenson, CEO of Atlanta Hall Management, the not-for-profit group established to oversee the construction and operation of the Hall of Fame. “This will change the way visitors think of halls of fame. It isn’t simply a museum. Our exhibit designers have struck an excellent balance between historic physical artifacts and media/technology that provides ways for fans to enjoy the current and future state of the sport.”
Scheduled to open in August 2014, the Hall has sparked interest from numerous sponsors and supporters. When presented with the chance to oversee the project, Stephenson jumped at the chance.
“The opportunity to create the nation’s premier college football attraction in the center of Atlanta’s business travel, convention and tourism district made too much sense to pass up. There isn’t a site in the country better suited for the Hall and a college football-themed attraction and events facility. Everyone who sees our renderings and fly-through video has an ’ah-ha’ moment when they realize that we are re-defining the Hall of Fame asset class.”
Located on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta, the structure will complement the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC), one of the largest convention facilities in the country. The Hall will be adjacent to the Georgia Dome and the Omni Hotel, and near Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.
Stephenson said the biggest hurdle getting the project off the ground was timing expectations.
“Thankfully, the National Football Foundation and the GWCC gave us ample time to do significant due diligence to make sure the project was feasible and on solid footing,” said Stephenson. “Everyone wants things to happen quickly, but having the luxury of taking our time to do our homework has made the project stronger. ”
The Hall of Fame will include a 7,500-sq. ft. (696 sq m) ballroom, retail space along the street edge and an upscale restaurant. It will be funded mostly through private sponsorships and philanthropy. With more than $55 million in committed equity so far, $1 million comes from the city of Atlanta.
Atlanta-based tvsdesign served as architect for the project. The company was charged with designing the structure from the inside out, starting with a scale replica of a football field in the center of the building. Numerous exhibits will be showcased around the field for fans to enjoy. Perhaps the building’s most dramatic feature is its exterior, with a chunk of the facade shaped like a giant pigskin.
According to tvsdesign architect Kevin Gordon, the plans had to enhance the city streetscape, improve traffic flow and address the building’s proximity to train tracks, without bulging outside its borders.
“The site began as two properties separated by a short street with an active train line along the rear,” said Gordon. “In order to assemble the pieces, an enhanced intersection and a new street were created along the backside of the site in order to maintain access to CNN Center, Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Dome and Phillips Arena. Once these borders were drawn, the team tackled placement of three new distinct buildings within this new triangular boundary — the College Football Hall of Fame, a new entry foyer to the Georgia World Congress Center and a five-level parking deck.”
The three-story attraction is anchored by a steel-framed rotunda, which required much thought and consideration. At project kick-off, Gordon took a vertical ride in a bucket truck. The shaky viewpoint solidified placement of the top floor and pinpointed the location of the Hall of Fame space.
“Visible from the park, the rotunda houses the entrance tunnel on the ground floor, a theater on the second level and the Hall of Fame space on the third,” said Gordon. “Retail and restaurant spaces will also open to the sidewalk along the building base level. The second floor houses the museum’s exhibit experience, while the top floor celebrates the honored inductees. The architecture uses carefully detailed exposed natural materials such as concrete, brick, glass, steel and other metals usually seen in stadium architecture. These natural materials bring color to the building without showing preference to any particular color or team.
“We worked with the owner, exhibit designer and community neighbors to place restaurant, retail and other spaces at the sidewalk. These amenities enhance the vibrant streetlife along Marietta Street adjacent to Centennial Park and enhance what is quickly becoming a museum/entertainment district in downtown Atlanta.”
Cousins Property/Gude Management is serving as project manger of the Hall of Fame, while Gallagher & Associates was chosen as the exhibit designer. Chris Britton, division manager of general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, described the project as a major undertaking.
“We began construction in February 2013 and are scheduled to complete in time for the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Classic in 2014. The logistics are very challenging on a tight construction site. We are bordered on all sides, so there isn’t much room on site to lay down and stage material. Our construction sequence has to be executed flawlessly to ensure that we don’t lock ourselves in. We had to close Foundry Street as the museum sits right on top of it. In order to close Foundry, we not only had to relocate all of the utilities, including sanitary, storm, power distribution and fiber optics, but also had to open a new access road.”
The road, known as the Baker Street Extension, runs along the western most property line of the site.
“We could not impede any access/deliveries to the GWCC or the Omni Hotel,” said Britton. “Every activity on our schedule leading up to the opening of this new road was critical. Now that the road is open, we will need to keep it operating while building a five-level parking deck on top of it.
“We would have preferred to have a lane closure on Marietta Street to create additional space,” said Britton. “However, since this is directly in the middle of Atlanta’s tourist and sports hotspot, the city would not allow us to have more than the sidewalk. We have to coordinate our work hours/days with the events that take place nearby to ensure that we do not affect the event schedules.”
Brasfield & Gorrie used BIM in the pre-construction process, which aided in planning site logistics for the project located in the busy area of downtown Atlanta.
“Using BIM, Brasfield & Gorrie was able to determine proximities to surrounding buildings for minimal impact to the public,” said Britton. “This assisted in developing a complex plan for routing of the public access road running underneath the construction of the parking deck.”
Crews are currently working from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day, with roughly two-dozen Brasfield & Gorrie employees on site.
When combined with subcontractors, there will be close to 80 people on site, but that number will likely grow to 200 as more of the skin and finish trades work on site.
In early September, crews began pouring the last section of Level 2 elevated slab and began forming the concrete roof slabs over the exhibit space. Structural steel is set to begin in late September, and the slab on grade in the museum is about 80 percent complete, except for the field.
“On the parking deck, we’ve poured the elevated slab over the Georgia Power transformer vault and the building electrical room,” said Britton. “We are working on the remaining pile caps in the parking deck and will have the slab on grade poured by the end of the month. After the elevated concrete is completed in the museum, we will continue working on the elevated concrete for the parking deck.”
Most of the grading is complete, as is a large portion of the structural concrete work on the museum. The deck has pile caps going in and the elevated parking structure will start once the museum concrete is finished. Crews still have to complete the museum and construct the GCC connector that will tie the College Football Hall of Fame into the GWCC.
As for the most time consuming part of the job, said Britton, “We ran into some pretty bad soils that needed to be removed and replaced with suitable fill. This presented a huge challenge to our team. During this process, we even uncovered a cannon ball from the Civil War that made headline news.”
Excessive rainfall — three times the usual amount — has caused issues for the project.
“This has been the wettest year I can remember since I first came to Atlanta 17 years ago. It has been a tremendous challenge since we started, and continues to plague the job; however, our team has managed to maintain schedule despite the setbacks,” said Britton.
Among multiple project highlights, Britton is eager to see a new 45-yard indoor turf field under a fabric roof.
“This indoor field will serve as a gathering place and a venue for social events. The structure will be a combination of structural steel and cast-in-place concrete. The skin will be a combination of metal panels, glass, masonry, and EIFS.”
Equipment used on the job includes a 185 CFM air compressor, a light tower, a 54 in. (137 cm) padfoot roller and a track skidsteer, a PC-35 mini-excavator, PC-88 and PC-138 excavators, a 10,000-lb. (4,535.9 kg) extended reach forklift and a Peiner tower crane SK415. Although construction was delayed more than once due to funding issues, the project is reportedly progressing on schedule.
A brick campaign is under way, allowing fans to be part of the building process, while honoring their favorite school, player, coach, family member or friend. Several brick options have been made available for purchase, with all the proceeds going to support the ongoing construction, programs and mission of the Hall. Supporters will be able to purchase exterior-facing bricks that front the walkway to the Hall or interior bricks that will line the condensed football field.
According to Atlanta Hall Management, the completed facility will have a total economic impact of $67 million for the city and state during construction. Upon completion, the Hall will rely on ticket sales, retail and events, with a projected $11.8 million in taxable sales each year. It will have an annual economic impact of more than $12 million for Georgia, while generating close to $2 million in sales taxes to the city, county and state each year.
In 2009, Atlanta Hall Management Inc. partnered with the National Football Foundation (NFF) to construct and operate the new Hall of Fame, which Dallas had hoped to secure during the city selection process. Formerly located in South Bend, Ind., the Hall of Fame was connected to a convention center and situated in the city’s renovated downtown district, 2 mi. south of the University of Notre Dame campus. It closed at the end of 2012.
The NFF, a non-profit educational organization founded in 1947, runs programs designed to develop scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 121 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame and the NFF Scholar-Athlete Awards. Its latest venture is getting positive reaction from athletes who are passionate about the sport.
“The Hall of Famers we show this to are thrilled that fans will be able to celebrate them, and understand as never before why they are Hall of Famers,” said Stephenson. “No matter what team you cheer for, you’ll feel that this is your college football home-away-from-home. In this building, you’ll be able to do everything, from seeing Red Grange’s actual jersey, to putting yourself — virtually — on the 50-yard line of your favorite stadium as the teams run onto the field out of the tunnel.”