CANTON — The Pro Football Hall of Fame is asking Visit Canton for $500,000 annually over the next 30 years to support Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village.

The money, which would come from revenue from a 2017 increase in Stark County’s lodging tax, would be bonded against and used for construction planning, Village programming, an expansion of the Hall and Market Square programming. It would not mean new or higher taxes for county residents.

Bed tax is collected when people spend nights in Stark County hotels, raising money to support the local tourism industry. Travelers pay similar bed taxes in most tourist areas around the country.

The proposal has been submitted to Visit Canton and Stark County commissioners.

The request isn’t unexpected: A change in state law allowed Stark County to double its lodging tax from 3 to 6 percent — a move that meant an estimated additional $1.5 million in revenue for Visit Canton annually. As part of that increase, Visit Canton, with the approval in 2017 of the commissioners, agreed to give the revenue from 1 percent of the new bed tax for 10 years to ArtsinStark, now about $500,000, to increase tourism. County and Visit Canton officials had anticipated the Hall would apply for a similar share of the new bed tax funding.

“There will still be an opportunity for Visit Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame to collaborate and coordinate on other programming and events we can recruit to Canton,” Hall President and CEO David Baker wrote in a letter requesting the funds. “But with the NFL Centennial Celebration fast approaching, these funds will provide a critical stimulus for economic development through further positive programs and activities throughout the region.”

How they’ll use it

The Hall is asking for $500,000 a year — or the amount that roughly one-third of the additional 3% county lodging tax yields annually now — for 30 years. The amount, by law, is capped at $500,000 a year no matter what the hotel bed tax revenue amount. Even if the hotel bed tax were to decrease due to a recession and $500,000 was more than 1%, the Hall still would get $500,000 a year if its request were approved.

The promised funds would be used to secure $15 million in bonds for the following projects, according to the Hall’s outline:

• $8 million for expansion at the Hall, new museum exhibits and programming for the Constellation Center for Excellence.

• $3 million for construction planning for the Village.

• $2 million for programming of concerts, meetings and conventions, and to create a marketing partnership with Visit Canton.

• $2 million for programming and maintenance of the proposed development for Market Square in downtown Canton, to be called Centennial Plaza.

“The Pro Football Hall of Fame is proud of the role we play in driving tourism to the community,” Anne Graffice, vice president of development and strategic adventures for the Hall, said in a statement.

“This has resulted in significant economic impact to the region for more than 55 years."

In exchange for the lodging tax, the Hall promises to partner with Visit Canton in the following ways:

• Making Visit Canton the exclusive marketing partner for events at the Hall and within the Tourism Development District that surrounds the Village.

• Attempting to book rooms for events in Stark County first.

• Giving Visit Canton access to the Hall’s trademark and logo.

• Giving Visit Canton exclusive rights to display visitor information.

• Recognizing Visit Canton on signage.

In a separate letter submitted with the Hall’s request, Village CEO Mike Crawford makes an additional, future request of Visit Canton for Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village.

Once hotels are built at the Village, Crawford is asking that all of the county lodging tax collected from those hotels be used for further development of the Village.

The Village project is a planned 107-acre development that already includes Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the Hall and five youth fields. The next $275 million phase of construction is expected to include a hotel, retail, the Constellation Center for Excellence and a field house with convention space, according to the March letter from Baker.

 

Reach Alison at 330-580-8312 or alison.matas@cantonrep.com. Reach Robert 330-580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com.