Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium

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Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
Tom Benson HOF Stadium-July2017.jpg
Former names Fawcett Stadium
(1938–2015)
Location Canton, Ohio, U.S.
Coordinates 40°49′12″N 81°23′53″W / 40.820°N 81.398°W / 40.820; -81.398Coordinates: 40°49′12″N 81°23′53″W / 40.820°N 81.398°W / 40.820; -81.398
Owner Hall of Fame Village, LLC
Capacity 23,000
Surface Turf Nation
(formerly AstroTurf,
originally natural grass)
Construction
Broke ground 1924
Opened 1938, 79 years ago
2016 (re-opened)
Renovated 2015–2016
Construction cost $500,000[1]
Tenants
Canton McKinley HS Bulldogs (1924–2015, 2017-present)
Malone Pioneers (NCAA)
Walsh Cavaliers (NCAA)
Hall of Fame Game
(NFL) (1962–present)
Lincoln HS Lions (1926–1975)
Lehman HS Polar Bears (1932–1975)
GlenOak HS Golden Eagles (1997–2006)
Canton Timken HS Trojans (1976–2014)
Canton is located in the US
Canton
Canton
Location in the United States
Canton is located in Ohio
Canton
Canton
Location in Ohio

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (formerly Fawcett Stadium) is a world-class sports and entertainment complex football stadium in Canton, Ohio, United States. It is located adjacent to the grounds of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and is a major component of Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, the venue hosts the annual Hall of Fame Game, along with various high school and college football games. Dedicated 79 years ago in 1938, the stadium's original name honored the memory of John A. Fawcett, a former Canton board of education member, who died several years before the stadium was completed, the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was dedicated on Aug. 3, 2017.

On November 24, 2014, it was announced that Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints, would be donating $11 million to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, $10 million of which was to go into renovating Fawcett Stadium. In response to Benson's donation, the Hall of Fame announced that Fawcett Stadium would be renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium as "the first step in a 'master plan' for major upgrades and expansion of the Hall of Fame Village."[2][3]

Fawcett Stadium served as the home for Canton McKinley High School and Division II college football teams at Malone University and Walsh University. The stadium used to be the home for the Lehman Polar Bears, GlenOak Golden Eagles, Lincoln Lions, and the Timken Trojans. Timken played their last season in 2014 before a vote took place after the season in February 2015 when the Canton School Board approved the closure of Timken as a separate high school.

Construction[edit]

The stadium was built from 1937 to 1939 at an estimated cost of $500,000, the federal government in the form of manpower, the WPA, paid for $400,000 while a school board bond issue paid for the materials. The stadium originally seated 15,000 and was the largest high school stadium in the country at that time.

On the grounds of the facility was a park, aptly named "Stadium Park", this park still exists although presently is much more disjointed from the stadium as part of the park was used as the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and also because what is left of the park is separated from Benson Stadium by Interstate 77.[1]

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was constructed as a replacement for League Field, the city's previous stadium, where Canton's professional football team, the Bulldogs, played many of their games.

History[edit]

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in 2006

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium holds 23,000 and features a world-class NFL-caliber press box that boasts hospitality settings in a number of settings.[4]

Five Canton area high schools have played their football seasons on this field (McKinley Bulldogs, Lincoln Lions, Lehman Polar Bears, GlenOak Golden Eagles, and Canton Timken Trojans). Future Cleveland Browns great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley, who along with fellow Hall of Famer Bill Willis broke the color barrier in modern professional football with the Cleveland Browns in 1946, scored the first touchdown in the stadium in 1938. In early August (or late July) it hosts the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, the first contest of the National Football League (NFL) exhibition season.

Presently it is the home field for the McKinley Senior High School and two colleges: Walsh University and Malone University. Three of the Ohio High School Athletic Association football state championship games were held at Fawcett Stadium during the first weekend of December. The other three were held at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in nearby Massillon; in 2014, the OHSAA football championships were moved back to Ohio Stadium in Columbus.[5]

In 1997, the stadium underwent a major renovation and a name change. Backed by the Canton community, $4.3 million worth of improvements were completed on the stadium. Some of the major improvements included state-of-the-art Astroturf with a player friendly rubber base, new locker room facilities, new scoreboard with graphics display screen, new lighting, new sound system, new electrical services, structural repairs, vinyl caps for all wooden seats, and a renovated press box, the newly renovated facility was also renamed to include the words Pro Football Hall of Fame Field.[1]

From 1997 to 2000, Benson Stadium was the home of the Victory Bowl, the NCCAA championship football game; in 2002, The Sporting News rated Benson Stadium the number one high school football venue in America.[6]

From June 27 to July 5, 2009, the stadium hosted the inaugural IFAF Junior World Championship of American Football. The tournament gathered 16 best national teams from around the world.

It hosted the 2015 IFAF World Championship in July 2015.

Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium will host the OHSAA State High School Football Championships in 2017 and 2018.[7]

In 2020 and 2021, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium will be the site of the NCAA Division III Football Championship. The Ohio Athletic Conference will be the host as designated by the NCAA.[8]

2015–16 reconstruction[edit]

After the 2015 Hall of Fame game concluded, demolition began on the north side of the stadium beginning with the removal of the light posts on the north side and the northeast and northwest corners. A few weeks later on September 10, demolition crews began dismantling the north side bleachers to make way for the new stadium. Due to construction, football games hosted by McKinley, Walsh University, and Malone limited fans to the south side bleachers and the two end zone bleachers throughout the 2015 season, on October 31, 2015, McKinley renewed their rivalry with the Massillon Tigers by closing Fawcett Stadium with a 30–28 victory over Massillon in the 126th edition of The War of 1894. Following the game, crews came in to remove the turf, northeast corner scoreboard, and end zone bleachers as demolition resumed on the south side, the former press box was demolished along with the south grandstand after the cancelled 2016 Hall of Fame Game as new plans came about. Due to construction, McKinley played their home games at Canton Central Catholic Stadium while Malone will play at Bob Commings Field, the home of the Glen Oak Eagles and Walsh will play at Memorial Stadium, the home of the Hoover Vikings,[9] for the 2016 season as the Hall of Fame Stadium was being constructed, the final phase of construction was to begin after the 2016 Hall of Fame Game, which was never actually played due to field conditions.[10] On August 7, approximately an hour prior to kickoff, the 2016 Hall of Fame Game was cancelled due to poor field conditions caused by the use of improper paints applied to the field to create the Hall of Fame logo and other on-field graphics.

References[edit]

See also[edit]

Events and tenants
Preceded by
first stadium
Home of the Victory Bowl
1997 – 2000
Succeeded by
Ernest W. Spangler Stadium