The College Football Hall of Fame is scheduled to open in Atlanta in the fall of 2014, but some of its members will arrive here a year earlier.
Because the Hall of Fame is temporarily homeless as it relocates from South Bend, Ind., this year’s enshrinement ceremony will be held in an Atlanta hotel ballroom, organizers said Monday.
Twenty-four former players and coaches will be enshrined on Aug. 28 at the Omni Hotel at CNN Center. The group includes former Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski, who played collegiately at California.
Steve Hatchell, president and CEO of the National Football Foundation, which owns the Hall of Fame, acknowledged this year’s enshrinement ceremony may be “a little bit awkward” with the new facility under construction but said it will serve as a tangible reminder of what’s ahead.
“People are going to start to see that these Hall of Famers are coming in and out of Atlanta and that this is for real,” Hatchell said in an interview Monday with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “In essence, the message is that this is the home of the Hall of Famers.”
The Hall of Fame’s facility in South Bend closed at the end of last year and the 94,000-square-foot, $66-million replacement is in the early stages of construction on a former Georgia World Congress Center parking lot near Centennial Olympic Park. The Omni Hotel is adjacent to the site.
Like Hatchell, John Stephenson — president and CEO of Atlanta Hall Management, the organization formed to build and operate the Hall of Fame here — stressed that this year’s enshrinement event will be different and more limited than in years after the new facility opens.
Details of the event, including its program, exact time (it’ll be in the evening) and ticket prices, are still being worked out, Stephenson said. Tickets will go on sale to the public “in the coming weeks,” he said, and Hall of Fame officials will work “closely” with the Atlanta Sports Council on the event.
“We hope it’ll be a nice celebration that honors this (enshrinement) class and helps everybody get excited about what’s coming in the next 12 months,” Stephenson said.
The event falls on a Wednesday, three days before the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game at the Georgia Dome between defending national champion Alabama and Virginia Tech. In South Bend, enshrinement ceremonies typically were held earlier in the summer.
The National Football Foundation has a two-step process for welcoming new Hall of Famers from the major-college (FBS) ranks. They are “inducted” at an awards dinner in New York each December and then “enshrined” the following summer.
Of those to be enshrined here in August, 17 were inducted last December as the Hall of Fame’s 2012 FBS class. In addition to Bartkowski, that group includes former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Ty Detmer of BYU, former LSU tailback Charles Alexander, former Notre Dame tight end Dave Casper, former Syracuse wide receiver Art Monk and former national championship-winning coaches Jimmy Johnson of Miami and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee, among others.
In addition, the Hall of Fame’s 2013 Divisional class — a group named last month that consists of seven former players and coaches who competed outside college football’s top classification — will be honored as part of this summer’s enshrinement. That group includes Art Shell, who played offensive tackle for Maryland Eastern Shore from 1964-67 and went on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Oakland Raiders.
The Hall of Fame’s 2013 FBS class, a group announced last month that includes Heisman Trophy winners Danny Wuerffel, Vinny Testaverde and Ron Dayne, will be inducted in New York in December and enshrined in Atlanta in the summer of 2014.
The decision was made in 2009 to move the Hall of Fame to Atlanta from South Bend, where it was located for 18 years. Fundraising problems stalled the project here before a flurry of corporate sponsorship commitments last year led to its green-lighting. Construction began in January.