This time of the year, most of us will be firmly planted on our couches (at least one day of the weekend) watching our gridiron heroes fight for yards between the lines in packed arenas, or maybe, in our hometown high schools’ backyards. America seems to have a love affair with the game of football that will lure them into spending each weekend rooting for their favorite team. There is, however, a special love for the competition at the collegiate level, and the flag posts of Northwest Georgia’s front porches tell the God’s honest truth about the enormous college football fan base here. And like a 100-pound pit bull terrier and a T-bone steak, it is smart not to come between a football fanatic and his team playing ball.
Today, there is a place where college football connoisseurs can really dig into the history of the game and explore a world-class facility dedicated wholly to the sport, and – to ice the cake – it’s only a short car ride away. Its 94,256 square feet of game day bliss trace the steps of every cleat, from the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors to the ’Canes of the University of Miami, and present the information to visitors using a totally interactive experience. Not only can you see the sport’s rich past but you are thrust into today’s game in the form of state-of-the-art technology, putting every facet of college football literally at your fingertips. Folks, the College Football Hall of Fame and the new Chick-fil-A Fan Experience (250 Marietta St., Atlanta) have found a new home, and boy is it nice to have such swanky digs in our very own State of Georgia.
Now neighbors with the Georgia World Congress Center, who along with the National Football Foundation and Atlanta Hall Management are owners of this impressive facility, the College Football Hall of Fame (CFHOF) has been refaced and updated to meet the standards of a 21st century fan. On Aug. 20, Hall officials offered an unofficial opening, allowing members of the media to get a peek inside the walls of the Hall before the public was allowed to enter the doors on Aug. 23. V3 took full advantage of a chance to see what will surely be a huge revenue generator for the state of Georgia, attracting visitors to Atlanta from all over the globe.
Many major news outlets were in attendance, but the guest list included some notable attendees. Tony Barnhart, also known as “Mr. College Football,” from the SEC Network, was on hand to welcome media representatives to the Hall. Barnhart, who is well respected in the college football world, provided some scope to Atlanta being chosen to house the CFHOF saying, “For 30 years, I’ve lived and worked in the city of Atlanta, Ga., to cover college football. So, trust me when I tell you this is a very special day for college football and a very special day for Atlanta. Those of us who work in the media know that one of the fun things we get to do is tell a good story. And folks, this is a great, great story.”
Barnhart went on to talk about how Atlanta stepped up to the plate when the CFHOF started looking to leave its South Bend, Ind., home in hopes of attracting more visitors. And after many long workdays, and many hours at the negotiating table, Georgia State officials and key founding partners were able to pave the way for groundbreaking on Jan. 28, 2013.
So naturally, the gentleman holding the highest office in Georgia State government also came to see his hard work realized firsthand. The 82nd Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, spoke extensively about how pleased he was that the CFHOF would be providing a much deserved spotlight on our great state.
“I remember on New Year’s Eve of  Archie Manning and the National Football Foundation [and I] were [planning] the ground breaking for this great facility. A year and a half later, here we are,” Deal recalls. “I thought at the time, what better place could there be for the College Football Hall of Fame than right here in Atlanta, Ga. We are in the heart of football country … and we have many people who have contributed to college football, from the coaches to the players. It’s good to have all of this assembled here in our capital city.”
Deal continues, “It will be a great contribution to the increased tourism attractions we have in this part of the city. It is estimated, I am told, that we will have about a half million visitors coming every year and the sales we are anticipating will be about $12 million. Now, as the governor of this state, I can tell you that those are very good numbers.”
With an estimated 12.7 million greenbacks in economic impact for Georgia, the CFHOF is bringing much needed cash that will improve the overall quality of life for all Georgia residents.
And what Hall of Fame inaugural opening would be complete without some Hall-of-Famers being on hand to christen the joint. Tracy Ham (Georgia Southern), Kevin Butler (UGA), Art Shell (Maryland Eastern Shore) and Atlanta resident philanthropist Danny Wuerffel (University of Florida) were in attendance to see the new housing for their stats and achievements on the football field.
Possibly Rome’s No. 1 Florida fan, Ian Griffin was able to secure an interview with Wuerffel, one of his childhood heroes, solidifying the awesome experience of a day in the new CFHOF.
“The whole thing is a surprise,” Wuerffel says. “It’s like history and tradition meeting technology. Your great-grandparents could come through here and have that sense of depth and authenticity, then my 5-year-old can come here and play with the video screens, and my 10-year-old can go play catch and kick field goals. I think people of every age are going to love this.”
Now, let’s detail a handful of the wonderful things tourists can take part in when spending an afternoon in the Hall. Patrick Gallagher and his talented team of exhibit designers at Gallagher & Associates have come together with Chick-fil-A and other founding partners, pulling everything from their bag of tricks to create a fan experience rivaled by few in the biz.
Entering the CFHOF doors leads you down a tunnel with silhouettes of cheering fans ushering your arrival to The Quad. Inside The Quad, you are greeted by a wall of 818 helmets representing all of your favorite college teams. Be sure to ask a CFHOF team member to help you to find your squad’s logo among the backlit hats. They have a special surprise in store for you.
Around the corner is a 45-yard indoor playing field, complete with drill stations and a field goal post. There, families can go through the motions of a college football athlete, giving fathers a chance to show their youngsters how they use to “tote the mail” for their respected alma mater. And don’t be shy about asking to kick a 33-yarder for the win; the Hall staff is happy to oblige.
The Chick-fil-A “Why We Love Football” exhibit is a 52-foot interactive touch-screen wall that lets a fan pick through a plethora of football related facts, awards and heritage, all with the touch of a finger. There is also a 4K feature film titled “The Game of Your Life,” where HOF members talk about their sport over eye-popping highlights and behind-the-scenes footage of their careers.
The Coca-Cola Fans’ Game Day exhibit allows fans to really get interactive with a seat at the weekly ESPN College GameDay Desk. After a quick broadcast, head on over to the AT&T Game Time gallery where you will be guided through football plays by famous college football coaches like Lou Holtz.
With technology at the forefront of the design concepts, the CFHOF has much more in store for tech-savvy and purists fans alike.
And, of course, there is the Hall of Fame. We would like to save a little something for your tour, but we will tell you there are body-length touch screens with handles hanging from the ceiling displaying the athletes and all of their accomplishments. That’s right, the screens have handles, people. Everyone involved with the new CFHOF has done an extraordinary job of putting together a HOF to make Georgians and Americans can truly proud.
What is mentioned here is only the tip of the college football iceberg. And the good news is that all of your day can be saved on an all-access-pass and downloaded to your PC to enjoy for years to come. Be sure to visit
www.cfbhall.com for more info about the Hall, a list of the many business partners responsible for bringing this attraction to our state, or to book your tour and become immersed in the college sport so many hold so dear.
For ticket information, call 404-880-4800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.