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College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta

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ATLANTA (AP) - Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the facility is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.

The site is in the Centennial Olympic Park area downtown near the Georgia Dome and World Congress Center. The museum is expected to attract around 500,000 visitors per year, according to studies by Atlanta Hall Management.

The public-private project has a price tag of $66.5 million, with the 94,256-square-feet hall facility costing $54 million.

The National Football Foundation announced three years ago that the hall was moving to Atlanta from South Bend, Ind. But fundraising issues forced several delays in the project, which was once expected to open in 2012.

The hall in South Bend closed Sunday after 17 years and memorabilia will be held in storage until the new facility is ready.

"The timeline isn't what we hoped, but we always thought that Atlanta was the perfect place for the hall," NFF president and CEO Steve Hatchell said. "Everyone worked very hard on this and we're excited about what is ahead."

Most of the funds for the museum itself are being privately raised. The agreement between the NFF and Atlanta is for 30 years.

One of the backers is Chick-fil-A and the announcement of the groundbreaking was made just hours before the annual Chick-fil-A Bowl.

"The economy set the project back," said John Stephenson, president and CEO of Atlanta Hall Management. "We're very appreciative of the support we were able to get to make this happen."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed attended the announcement Monday, as did Archie Manning, chairman of the NFF.

"Atlanta is football. Georgia is football," Reed said. "We got this done and we're going to be a good home."

The hall will be near the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium and the future National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Although the projected attendance average of 500,000 is well more than five times what the hall was attracting in South Bend, Stephenson said that he is confident in the figure.

"The World of Coca-Cola draws 1.2 million and the Aquarium 2.4 million," he said.

The hall will be highly interactive - and that is a must, said Gov. Deal, noting that it is children who determine where their parents stop while on vacation.

The South Bend hall was projected to attract 200,000 visitors when it moved from Ohio in 1995. But it drew about 115,000 the first year and about 60,000 annually after that.

The Atlanta facility will feature historic and contemporary artifacts, interactive multimedia displays, children's activities, a theater and meeting facilities. It will also connect to the World Congress Center.

The hall is expected to have a significant economic impact on downtown Atlanta, with a projected $11.8 million in taxable sales from tickets, retail and events.

"I know firsthand the passion of Southern football fans and Atlanta will be the ideal location for the new hall of fame," Manning said.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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