CANTON — The man who oversaw the creation of the Walt Disney resort in Shanghai will oversee the creation of "the most inspiring place on earth."
Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village on Thursday announced Mike Crawford, the former senior vice president and general manager of the Shanghai Disney Resort and president of Walt Disney Holding Co., Shanghai, has been hired as CEO of the village.
David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will remain the head of the nonprofit organization, which is a partner in the village development.
"Mike Crawford will make Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village a world-class and state-of-the-art destination center," Baker wrote in a statement.
Crawford is taking over a project that, in terms of bricks and mortar, has stagnated since the fall of 2017. Construction timelines given this past spring and summer have passed, and officials involved with the project have declined to comment on revised plans for construction.
The village is described as a 10-part, nearly billion-dollar development designed to include the existing football museum, the Black College Football Hall of Fame, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, a youth sports complex, retail and restaurants, a virtual reality and indoor water park facility, a four-star hotel and conference center, a research and office building, a retirement community and medical facility, and an arena with convention space.
Crawford spent 24 years of his career with the Walt Disney Co. As senior vice president and general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort, he negotiated the creation of the property, which includes an amusement park, two hotels and a shopping and entertainment center, and he developed the management company that operates it.
In 2014, Crawford left his position with Disney to become president of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Asia Pacific region. He later was named president of portfolio management and owner relations for the company, which has properties on nearly every continent. He was responsible for design and construction of all new hotels and resorts across the globe during that period.
Crawford, an Ohio native, joins a leadership team for the village that includes former entertainment and NFL executives and is overseen by Michael Klein, managing partner of New York-based boutique advisory firm M. Klein and Co.
"Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, the first-ever smart sports and entertainment city, is an extraordinary project and a unique opportunity," Crawford said in a statement. "... I look forward to helping advance this terrific vision into a reality."
Demolition crews started tearing down houses near the Pro Football Hall of Fame two years ago to build the village.
Blake Avenue Northwest — the road that separated the hall and the modest nearby neighborhood — was cleared to make way for a four-star hotel and conference center. Construction was supposed to start before Thanksgiving 2016.
The landscape around the hall has changed since then. More than 100 homes were purchased, many of which have been torn down. There's a $139 million stadium standing where Fawcett Stadium used to be. Don Scott Field now is part of a youth sports complex with four new multipurpose fields, which help attract tens of thousands of youth players and their families to Stark County every year.
But the other components remain only conceptual.
When the project was unveiled in May 2015, every element of the development was slated to be finished by May 2018. Baker and other village officials have cautioned about construction timelines in the past because of fluid developments.
The project hasn't been without a few difficulties. Construction stalled for months while at least 18 companies waited on millions of dollars in back pay from their work on Benson Stadium — an issue resolved with a loan developers secured this spring. Amid that setback, Klein was brought in to oversee the rest of the project.
The last groundbreaking at the campus was in April 2017.
It's still not clear when developers plan to start building.