loyd Breit’s former home sat on the land where the new luxury hotel will go up at the Johnson Controls Pro Football Hall of Fame Village in Canton.
The house is gone, bulldozed over. And Breit, who volunteers at the hall of hame museum, couldn’t be happier.
Breit, who turns 90 on Saturday, was among the guests at Tuesday morning’s groundbreaking for the 243-room hotel, a major turning point in the $600 million village project.
Groundbreakings typically are events where people tell all sorts of tales — and among the stories told Tuesday was Breit’s.
David Baker, president of the hall of fame, pointed out Breit to onlookers.
“This guy to me is real special,” Baker said. He recalled that more than a year ago, Breit stopped him in a hallway at the museum and asked Baker if he had a minute to talk.
“It may have been the most important minute I’ve had in Canton,” Baker said.
Breit said he wanted to use money from the sale of his home to the hall of fame to have his name and that of his late wife, Nancy — they had been married 63 years — on the hall of fame’s donor board. On Nov. 11 — Veterans Day — Breit, a veteran, wrote a check for $11,111.11 to the hall of fame. The couple’s names are on the donor board.
“I hope you’ll shake the hand of Floyd Breit. He’s a hall of famer to us, as well,” Baker said.
The Hall of Fame Village is “outstanding,” Breit said after the ceremony.
“It’s going to make a lot of people wealthy around here,” he said. “Not just in Canton, but in the surroundings. It’s a tremendous project.”
Developers say the village, once current plans are largely complete by 2020, should have a Disney-like impact on Canton and other parts of Northeast Ohio and bring in billions of dollars to the local economy.
The village’s soon-to-be built, four-star, football-themed hotel is designed by HKS Architects; it will be a Curio by Hilton that is managed by Crestline Hotel & Resorts. Hilton describes in part its Curio hotels as “a global set of more than 20 hand-picked upscale and luxury hotels.”
The 345,400-square-foot hotel is scheduled to open in 2019 and, if everything falls into place, it could host at least part of that year’s NFL college draft.
Among the partners in the hotel is retired NFL player Bruce Smith, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Smith, a defensive end who still holds the league’s quarterback sack record with 200, was named to the Pro Bowl for 11 years and played for the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins. Smith has a real estate business, Bruce Smith Enterprise, and has partnered with Crestline on other hotels.
Hotel features will include:
•?Four food and beverage “offerings” with an emphasis on locally sourced food, microbrews, wines and more.
•?A grand lobby with a 40-foot-high ceiling.
•?More than 25,000 square feet of conference and special event space, including a ballroom, theater and flexible meeting rooms.
•?Indoor pool and fitness spa.
•?Retail space, including a Shula’s Steak House, part of a chain affiliated with hall of fame coach Don Shula.
•?Technology from Johnson Controls that gives hotel guests complete control over their environment.
Welty Building Co. is the general contractor for the village project. Coinciding with the hotel groundbreaking, Welty workers held a topping off ceremony at the site’s under-construction Benson Stadium.
Besides the museum, Benson Stadium and the new hotel, the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village will also include a youth sports complex, retail stores, what will be billed as the “world’s greatest sports bar,” an indoor performance center, assisted living area for retired hall of famers and others, a second hotel, and the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Experience that will include virtual reality technology and a football-themed water park.
After the groundbreaking, Smith, wearing his hall of fame gold jacket, talked with and had his picture taken with guests.
Smith at one point had his picture snapped with a man who wore Cleveland Browns garb. Smith towered over the man. (To be fair, at 6 feet, 4 inches tall, Smith towered over most people there.)
When the picture taking with the Browns fan ended, a reporter asked Smith how many Browns quarterbacks he had sacked during his lengthy NFL career.
Smith’s face lit up. He smiled. “A lot,” he said.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ