A gridiron game plan

A gridiron game plan

 

On a late summer night in 1920, a group of men met in the showroom of Ralph Hay’s Jordan and Hupmobile auto dealership in Canton, Ohio. Because Hay didn’t have enough chairs, some of the visitors, including a Chicagoan named George Halas, sat on the running boards of Hay’s cars throughout the meeting. While the men passed around buckets of beer, they agreed to form the country’s first professional football association. Two years later their association would be renamed the National Football League.

On a late summer night in 1920, a group of men met in the showroom of Ralph Hay’s Jordan and Hupmobile auto dealership in Canton, Ohio. Because Hay didn’t have enough chairs, some of the visitors, including a Chicagoan named George Halas, sat on the running boards of Hay’s cars throughout the meeting. While the men passed around buckets of beer, they agreed to form the country’s first professional football association. Two years later their association would be renamed the National Football League.1

Though one of the founding franchises, Canton’s own Bulldogs, played their last NFL game in 1926, the league’s birthplace has been home since 1963 to the Professional Football Hall of Fame. And David Baker, its director, is counting on Huntington Bank to help him, the Hall and the city of Canton strengthen the NFL’s already formidable grip on America’s attention.

In the run-up to the NFL’s 100th season in 2019, the Hall of Fame broke ground in September on a $500 million project called Hall of Fame Village. Huntington is helping to finance the development. Plans call for construction of a four-star hotel and conference center, the NFL Experience exhibition hall, restaurants, shops, youth football fields, a Center of Athletic Performance & Safety and 150 residential units for retired players.2

“Hall of Fame Village holds great promise,” Baker said. “The economic analysis says it’ll provide about 13,000 jobs. So this is big, not just for Canton but really for all of Ohio.”3

The Hall of Fame Village follows another major undertaking, completed in time for the Hall’s 50th birthday in 2013, which Huntington also anchored. The Future 50 Project, then the largest expansion and renovation in the institution’s history, enlarged the Hall of Fame by 40 percent and included a new grand lobby, exhibits and museum store.4

“There’s a great opportunity in the next five years as the NFL turns 100 for Canton to be center stage for the country,” Baker said. “And I think it’s important when you’re going to play on a very high level to have a very professional partner. And everything I’ve seen of (Huntington) is; they are All-Pro all the time.”5

Baker said when he considers the team he works with at Huntington, starting with Bill Shivers, president of Huntington’s greater Akron/Canton and Mahoning Valley regions, he sees a group committed to the Akron/Canton area’s growth and well-being. In football terms, Huntington offers Baker and the Hall of Fame a deep roster.

“All (of the Huntington team) is deeply involved in the community,” Baker said, “through the development committees, the arts council … they’re very, very plugged in and are a critical part of the fabric that supports the character of this community.”6

Baker said in his past experiences with Huntington, “everything was straightforward … done properly … and efficient.”

As the Hall of Fame Village project proceeds, the director expects more of the same.

“Huntington has been a great part of our team for a long, long time,” Baker said. “and I think they’re going to be a great part of it for a long time to come.”7

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Although the Canton Bulldogs played their last professional football game in 1926, the Pro Football Hall of Fame calls Canton, Ohio, home to commemorate the league’s founding there in 1920. Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame