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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, hosts only one NFL game each year, the annual Hall of Fame Game, which is played the same weekend as the annual enshrinement ceremony, also held right here. Actually a high school stadium, the facility opened in 1938, and has a capacity of 22,375. Recently renamed in honor of New Orleans Saints’ owner Tom Benson, thanks to an $11M donation, the Hall of Fame complex is in the early stages of a $250M renovation, to include a hotel, convention center, and upgrades to the stadium. The renovation is scheduled for completion in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the start of pro football in Canton.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
A wide variety of concessions is offered from stands all over the stadium, much more than you would expect from a stadium this size.
The main stands (under the bleachers) offer stadium classics such as burgers, chicken tenders, hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, peanuts, popcorn, and nachos for $4-$8 - these same items are also available from satellite stands on the outside edge of the concourse. You can also find funnel cakes, cookies, ice cream cones, candy, and turkey sandwiches.
Coke products are available in 20-ounce bottles for $4, or from the fountain for $6 (larger sizes) - the fountain offers more options, with root beer, lemonade, and orange soda, in addition to Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite. Other drink options include iced tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, as well as two varieties of frozen smoothies (strawberry and lemonade). However, the venue has a very small alcohol selection - the only three options are Bud, Bud Light, and Bud Light Lemon-Ade-Ritas.
The game itself is only pre-season, so you won't see a ton of energy from that. However, the rest of the production more than makes up for it, with all kinds of fun extras thrown in before and during the game.
The stadium itself offers bleacher seating in all areas - metal benches in the end zones, vinyl-capped wood benches on the sidelines, and no chair backs in sight. The 70-plus year old stadium is dilapidated in some areas, but the sight lines are good, since the venue is so small. Fans are very close to the action, and the playing surface itself is relatively new. The press box is pretty impressive as well, which is kind of a given, since the enshrinement ceremony happens here too. There are several video scoreboards, but they are not that big, so they could be hard to see if you aren't close to them. Also, since it is pre-season, you likely won't see any marquee players.
The Hall puts on quite a show for this first game of the season, including fireworks, the presentation of the new inductees, jet flyovers, and even paratroopers landing on the field. There is also plenty of excitement earlier in the day, with all sorts of activities and entertainment on the plaza outside the Hall for both kids and adults, as well as plenty of music, and the opportunity to meet past and present Hall of Famers (for a price, of course). See the paratroopers here:
Avoid the east end zone if you can, since the player locker rooms are located there - if you sit there, when the game ends, you will be blocked from leaving until all of the players and media get off the field, which takes a while.
There is not much in the vicinity of the stadium, except of course the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is certainly worth a visit.
There are a few local and fast food restaurants around, but the only place really within walking distance is the food tent on the plaza outside the Hall, which has a limited selection but is certainly convenient.
Though not as big as other pro halls of fame, there is plenty to see across the Hall's three levels, including the gallery of busts, the Super Bowl rings, and uniforms and balls from key games and moments in NFL history. Candidly, enshrinement weekend is not the best time to visit the Hall, since it will be much more crowded than normal, and admission costs slightly more. Besides the Hall, you might also visit the McKinley Memorial, the burial place of our 25th president, located a mile or two from the stadium. There is a small museum next to the Memorial, which covers very little from the president's life, but includes a planetarium, a small dinosaur exhibit, electric trains, and a mock-up storefront of historic Stark County.
There are plenty of hotels in the area, but book early because they will fill up.
This is arguably the only neutral-site stadium in the NFL (except when the Browns or Steelers are in town). That said, the experience will vary, based on which teams are playing that year.
The stadium will be at capacity regardless, however, since most enshrinement ceremony attendees stick around for the game.
The crowd will be very loud at times; for example, when the new inductees are presented, but it is a pre-season game, so you will hear a lot of complaints from fans about why certain players are even in the game.
It doesn't make sense, but it feels like there are way more fans in attendance than the venue can support, which is of course impossible, since it was built to hold exactly that many.
Parking is difficult, given that there aren't really any parking lots nearby (the lot at the Hall is blocked off, as are some of the streets). Many fans park several miles away at the County Fairgrounds, which costs $10, plus $3 per person to ride the shuttle to the game - this is actually where the Hall recommends you park during the weekend. There are a couple places closer in, such as the local high school, where you can park for $5, but it is still a bit of a walk, and space is limited.
There are several entrances into the stadium, but it is best to use the gate specified on your ticket, otherwise you might have to walk all the way around the stadium to get to your seat, since certain sections do not connect easily.
There are more than enough bathrooms because, in addition to the regular bathrooms under the grandstand, the staff trucks in lots of port-a-johns.
This stadium is not the best place to see a game, since it is pre-season, the facilities are not great, and getting in and out is a hassle. For most fans, the game is just one component of the whole Enshrinement Weekend experience, and not a standalone event.
Stand-alone tickets to the game start at $54, but you need to buy early, because they will sell out. Enshrinement Weekend packages start at $150, and include the Hall of Fame game and induction ceremony, plus some other extras. Admission to the Hall itself is $29 during Enshrinement Weekend, versus $24 at other times. If all you want is to visit the Hall of Fame, you are much better off picking another weekend, and maybe pair it with a Browns game.
One point for the Army paratroopers landing on the field, a second point for the fireworks, and a third point for the jet flyovers. You might see one or two of these at any other pro or big-time college game, but rarely will you see this kind of trifecta at a football stadium - the Hall really does go all out to put on a show.
A fourth point for the Hall of Fame inductees being presented on the field - even if you do not choose to attend the Enshrinement Ceremony or other events this weekend, you can still see the new members of the Hall strut across the field in their gold finery. See what I mean here:
Member Review by Ed Pelle on Aug 16, 2012
Following the great popularity of football at the collegiate level, Pro Football began to gain a foothold in the central Pennsylvania region soon thereafter. As various clubs were formed using former college stars, some began to be paid for their services. Pro Football would soon grow to expand into the Midwest. On Sept. 17, 1920 Ralph Hay, owner of the Canton Bulldogs invited representatives of ten teams to meet at his Hupmobile showroom where the American Professional Football Association was formed. The league soon changed its official name to the National Football League.
Two teams represented at the meeting, the Decatur Staleys and the Racine Cardinals, continue to play in the NFL today, known as the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals respectively. The site of this historic meeting no longer exists, but there is a historical marker on the side of a courthouse. To commemorate this meeting, as well as the great early success of the Canton Bulldogs on Aug. 11, 1962 construction began on a Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton Ohio.
In late 2014, the Hall of Fame announced that the stadium would be renamed from Fawcett Stadium to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium after the Saints owner pledged about $11 million for renovations. The inaugural Hall of Fame Game which ceremonially marks the start of the NFL preseason was also played on this date at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium which is located right behind the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was opened in 1938 to replace League Field, the former home of the Canton Bulldogs. It serves as a host for primarily high school football and some college football games. The stadium was built into a naturally occurring horseshoe bowl and underwent renovations in 1997 at which point it was officially named Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Since 1962, with only two exceptions, a game has been played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium to mark the beginning of the season. There was no game in 1966, and in 2011 the game was cancelled due to the NFL lockout.
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