Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was dedicated Thursday morning, and the logo for Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village was unveiled.
CANTON New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson will watch over the stadium he helped build for decades to come.
A 9-foot statue of him — sculpted by the same artist who sculpts the busts of the men enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame — stands in the west end zone of what is now Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Before the curtain concealing his statue was removed Thursday, a crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to Benson, who recently turned 90. He took the podium briefly to say he was pleased and that he's always thought a lot of Canton.
"And I tell you, this is a great day for Tom and his family," he said.
Benson Stadium was dedicated Thursday morning before it opened to the public at night for the Hall of Fame Game between Dallas and Arizona. The 23,000-capacity venue is named for Benson, who donated $10 million early on for what now is estimated as a $150 million venue.
Stuart Lichter, president and chairman of the board of master developer Industrial Realty Group, commented on the higher price Thursday: "So, I feel like I'm giving birth this morning to a beautiful child," he told a chuckling audience. "A little overweight."
The stadium was built in less than two years and includes a permanent stage at the 50-yard line, suites, a sky level, club level and club lounge. The 12,835-seat south stands were erected in the last 10 months, with an average daily construction crew of 200 people.
Representatives from Welty Building Co., the construction manager, were not present Thursday because they still were working.
Mark Williams, principal with stadium designer HKS Architects, said the stadium differs from other NFL venues because of its size and the intimacy it promotes by keeping fans close to what's happening on the field.
"And I think when people walk into the stadium tonight, they're going to feel that," he said.
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium is one of nine elements planned for the more than $700 million Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village development, which is being built near the Pro Football Hall of Fame museum through a partnership between the Hall and Industrial Realty Group. Aside from the stadium, the Village also is expected to include a four-star hotel, an indoor water park and virtual reality rides, retail and restaurants, athletic facilities, and space for corporate training and offices.
Several times Thursday, speakers referenced the larger plans for the Village and the stadium's role in making the Village a reality.
"This is hope," Hall President David Baker said. "This is a vision. This is just the beginning."
As part of Thursday's ceremony, the gold-and-white logo for the Village was unveiled.
Kim Metcalf-Kupres, vice president and chief marketing officer for Johnson Controls, said it was important for the iconic rotunda of the Hall to be part of the logo because no one wanted to lose site of the heart of the campus.
She commented on the international reach both the Hall and Johnson Controls have and said the partnership means both groups will be committed to not just transforming a place but to transforming lives.
"Wherever we go, this is a part of our identity now," she said. "We are part of your team."
The building efficiency company and Village developers announced an 18-year naming-rights deal worth more than $100 million last year. Part of the agreement includes a professional services contract for Johnson Controls technology to be incorporated throughout the Village to create the first-ever smart sports and entertainment complex. The company also received one of the luxury suites in the new stadium and presenting rights to enshrinement week.
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