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The Suburbanite
  • Businesses prepare for busy HOF week

  • Huge crowds expected as Hall celebrates 50 years

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  • It’s Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement week.
    Or, as local hotels and other businesses see it, “when things really get crazy,” as Allyson Bussey of the Canton-Stark County Visitors and Convention Bureau put it.
    Bussey was alluding specifically to Friday, as visitors from around the country arrive in droves for weekend activities that include Saturday’s parade and enshrinement and Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game.
    “People call us all the time and say, ‘We want to come to Stark County. We want to come to the Hall of Fame Festival,’ ” Bussey said. “We are expecting that it will be a sellout, or very close to it.”
    The Hall also is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, which should boost the crowds even more.
    Part of that crowd, of course, will be returning Hall of Famers — as many as 130. A record number is expected for the anniversary and to help enshrine this year’s class of Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson and Warren Sapp.
    Festival organizers as well as those in the hotel business here say the demand for overnight lodging puts customers in facilities as far as the Akron area or to the south into Tuscarawas County.
    “We are absolutely mostly at capacity in Stark County,” said Jessica Bennett of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organizes much of the festival events.
    While some visitors make lodging reservations on their own, the Hall of Fame makes those arrangements for the enshrinees and their guests. The guests generally include family and friends.
    “We actually use 21 hotels in the Akron-Canton area,” said Tammy Owens, executive assistant at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “It is about 4,000 to 5,000 room-nights. That is the total of nights they stay at these hotels.
    “The people pay for it themselves. There will be about 1,200 people for the seven (enshrinees) of them.”
    And for the few days these guests are here, they are expected to add some fuel to the local service and retail economy.
    “They shop, they eat, they drink, they do it all,” Owens said. “They have a boost in rental cars and a boost in the cabs.”
    During the enshrinement activities, the McKinley Grand Hotel in downtown Canton is off-limits to the general public because it is traditionally used for the incoming Hall of Fame class and past enshrinees.
    But, “this year they will not be there because we needed so many rooms for the returning Hall of Famers,” said Joe Horrigan, vice president of communications and exhibits for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “They put them (incoming class) in other accommodations.”
    Most of the traditional hotels in Stark County are concentrated in the retail area of Jackson and Plain townships, near the Interstate 77 corridor. One such facility is the Holiday Inn at 4520 Everhard Rd. NW in Jackson Township.
    Page 2 of 2 - This coming weekend “is one of our busiest times of the year,” Emily Roberts, general manager of the Holiday Inn, said. “We fill up on Thursday and it goes all the way to Sunday, the night of the game. I believe we have the most rooms (193) of all the local hotels. We get a variety of people, corporate clientel that bring their VIPs in.”
    But lodging facilities in neighboring towns, such as the Hampton Inn of Massillon, likely will experience a brisk business weekend.
    “It is a Stark County festival,” Dwayne Spencer, manager of the Hampton Inn. “We get the big fans to see the guys enshrined.”
    While enshrinement weekend climaxes the festival, entertainment events occur days ahead of the final weekend.
    “We are up to 19 events over 21/2 weeks,” Jessica Bennett of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, said. “We did an economic study in 2005. The overall number is 700,000 people attend some portion of the festivities.”
    That economic study also gauged the economic impact.
    “We estimate, based on the study done in 2005 adjusted for inflation, that the festival activities combined are expected to produce an economic impact of over $32 million,” said Jessica Bennett of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce. “That is for Canton-Stark County, and for the state of Ohio, $56 million.”
    Reach Malcolm at 330-580-8305 or malcolm.hall@cantonrep.com
    On Twitter: mhallREP