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A preview of the College Football Hall of Fame


A preview of the College Football Hall of Fame

John KeulerComments

The College Football Hall of Fame, formerly of South Bend, Indiana, is set to open next to Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park on August 23.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

Viewers get their first glimpse of the museum’s full-on dive into interactivity as they first walk into the building alongside shadowy silhouettes running onto a field.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

There are 768 helmets on this prominently featured wall, one from every college with a football team at any level. When you register as a visitor, your college of choice will light up and remain that way for the duration of your visit.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

The turf on the 45-yard indoor field sure looks pretty. In terms of quality? Let’s just say you might not want to actually play football on it.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

One of the hall’s most popular destinations will surely be the skills challenge section on the indoor field, where kids and adults alike can emulate their college favorites.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

The hall’s mascot Fumbles is a bundle of energy and fun. Why does he wear number 51? He won’t say!
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

The first thing visitors see upstairs is the interactive media wall. Press your pass against it, wait for the wall to recognize your RFID chip, and watch as content of your favorite team is displayed – no matter how big or small your school is.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

The prize collection is predictably impressive, led by versions of the Heisman and the new College Football Playoff trophy.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

Almost every exhibit has at least one interactive feature. Here, one fan is designing his own halftime marching band show – and then seeing it in action.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

The hall isn’t just for players. The game’s greatest coaches are also honored, along with a few noteworthy coaching legacies passed down at schools from generation to generation.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

After all, what’s a legendary coach without a legendary pithy quote?
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

Visitors can ask Hall of Fame players about life as a college football star, from the field to the classroom to many things in between.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

What would a museum be without historical artifacts, like some of the most evolutionary playbooks in the game?
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

See how you measure up next to former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. Hint: He looks smaller in person than he does on television, but he’s still bigger than you.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

Equipment has evolved tremendously over the years, from helmets to pads to cleats to uniforms.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

Your RFID tag will pull up your team’s biggest rivalry – or, if your school has a more storied history, multiple rivalries from which to choose.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

Some hallways also function as exhibits, like this reminder of football’s evolutionary nature.
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

Finally, on the third floor, viewers reach the Hall of Fame itself, where the names of the greats are enshrined. It’s got some neat interactive features too, but we won’t give everything away!
Photograph by Cameron Albert-Deitch

On Tuesday, the College Football Hall of Fame held its media preview, inviting the press to get the full Chick-fil-A Fan Experience before the attraction opens on Saturday. Upon arrival, grunting silhouettes in full pads jogged and skipped down the tunnel-like entrance, leading attendees into the lobby. These animated shadows set the tone for how well the museum utilizes technology.

The lobby, which smelled as new as a fresh pair of cleats, houses the 768 helmets of every school that fields a team across the nation, regardless of their level of play. A false fire alarm sounded just before the press conference got under way on the 45-yard indoor field—long enough for a mid-range field goal but not tall enough to contain a well-struck punt—but no one moved toward the door; we all wanted a glimpse of the $68.5 million structure that stretches across 94,256 total square feet.

“This used to be a surface lot,” recalled John Stephenson, the Hall of Fame’s CEO. “There were about 100 spaces, and now there are 350 parking spaces in the deck. So at the end of the day, the state will actually make more off of this 2.7 acres than before.” But the state has a lot more to gain than just parking change. Expected to draw an estimated 500,000 visitors per year, the attraction could pump approximately $12.7 million into Georgia’s economy annually.

Kent Stephens, the curator of the Hall, led our tour—as best he could. “This is definitely like herding cats,” he said after discovering only two of his charges were still keeping his pace. The allure of college football history had reduced grown men to wandering children.

The juxtaposition of interactive activities and athletic artifacts make the Hall captivating for visitors on any end of the spectrum. The casual fan can watch Lou Holtz explain the schematics of Oklahoma’s wishbone offense of the 50s, while the football historian takes in one of Holtz’s handwritten play sheets. Exhibits celebrate the full fan experience—from tailgating to rivalries to bands, cheerleaders, and uniforms. But the playful atmosphere and color scheme melt away once you enter a shrine to the sport’s most hallowed players. Distanced from the buzz of the games and activities by a staircase, the room became a baptismal font as everyone hushed their voices, showing reverence to the 1,139 names listed around the room.

The College Football Hall of Fame is a Cooperstown built for the smartphone generation. Although the technology is impressive, Stephens hopes people aren’t distracted from the history and artifacts. “There’s so much to do. The interactive stuff, as the historian, sort of bothers me. People are so into all this other stuff and I keep thinking, “Hey there’s Red Grange’s jersey!”

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