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Pro Football Hall of Fame Village President and CEO lays out path for growth

 Michael Crawford spoke at the Akron Roundtable about his plans for growing the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village.  [Eman Abu-Khaled /  Ideastream Public Media]
Michael Crawford spoke at the Akron Roundtable about his plans for growing the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village.

The head of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Village is laying out his path for growth for the coming years.

The Hall of Fame Village recently completed construction on phase one which includes finishing the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, upgrading fields and building a domed center for performance and is moving ahead with phase two which will include a hotel, water park and amusement rides. President and CEO Michael Crawford said, much like the philosophy at his previous employer Disney and its theme parks, the village will never be fully completed.

“We believe very deeply that as we move through phase two and stand up these assets and experiences, you’ve got to have the next thing to incentivize the guests to repeat visit, to stay longer," Crawford said.

Crawford said tourism destinations can draw in repeat visitors two ways.

"You can do it through programming, concerts, events, things like that, but new assets are much much more meaningful," Crawford said.

That's why phase two of the Village focuses on building out the property as a destination.

Crawford said he’s hopeful about moving beyond financial issues affecting the Hall of Fame Village, including its low stock price.

"We have just like everybody else been beaten about the head and shoulders through this difficult time, and the markets are where the markets are: inflation at a four-decade high," Crawford said.

He said they are working to obtain the final set of commercial loans they need for a new hotel and waterpark, with construction expected to begin this year.

“And I think what you’re going to see for us is revenue we project to continue to grow, top line and bottom line," Crawford said. "We continue to grow in all our business verticals and add new content, add new assets, add new gaming environments.”

The Nasdaq warned earlier this year that Hall of Fame Resorts faced delisting because its shares were trading too low. Crawford said there are many ways they can get back into compliance and that they are still deciding how to move forward.

"So I think we've got to take all the steps that we need to to ensure responsibly that we can be in compliance," Crawford said. "Which one we will exercise at what time, still to be determined."

Another part of phase two is introducing sports betting. The Village has applied for license with the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

"So we've done two deals to have a retail sportsbook and then a mobile betting partner as well and so hopefully, knock on wood, our applications get approved and we can move forward with that," Crawford said.

Crawford hopes phase two will bring more tourism to Canton.

"I am a big believer in tourism driving economic growth and economic impact for cities far beyond what they actually imagined when you start building these assets," Crawford said.

Crawford hopes to have phase two completed by late next year.

You can hear Michael Crawford’s recent speech to the Akron Roundtable Thursday, September 22 at 8:00 pm on WKSU.

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