Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
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|Owner||Canton City School District|
|Surface||UBU Sports (formerly grass, later AstroTurf)|
|Demolished||2015 (in progress)|
|Construction cost||$500,000.00 USD|
|Canton McKinley High School Bulldogs (1924–2015)
Malone University Pioneers (NCAA)
Walsh University Cavaliers (NCAA)
Pro Football Hall of Fame Game (NFL) (1962–present)
Lincoln High School Lions (1926–1975)
Lehman High School Polar Bears (1932–1975)
GlenOak High School - Golden Eagles (1997–2006)
Timken High School Trojans (1976–2014)
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, formerly known as Fawcett Stadium, is a football stadium in Canton, Ohio, United States. The stadium is located adjacent to the grounds of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and plays host to the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, along with various high school and college football games. Dedicated in 1938, the stadium's original name honored the memory of former Canton board of education member John A. Fawcett, who died several years before the stadium was completed.
On November 24, 2014, it was announced that Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints, would be donating $11 million to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, $10 million of which was to go into renovating Fawcett Stadium. In response to Benson's donation, the Hall of Fame announced that Fawcett Stadium would be renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium as "the first step in a 'master plan' for major upgrades and expansion of the Hall of Fame Village."
Fawcett Stadium served as the home for Canton McKinley High School and Division II college football teams at Malone University and Walsh University. The stadium used to be the home for the Lehman Polar Bears, GlenOak Golden Eagles, Lincoln Lions, and the Timken Trojans. Timken played their last season in 2014 before a vote took place after the season in February 2015 when the Canton School Board approved the closure of Timken as a separate high school.
The stadium was built from 1937 to 1939 at an estimated cost of $500,000. The federal government in the form of man power, the WPA, paid for $400,000 while a school board bond issue paid for the materials. The stadium originally seated 15,000 and was the largest high school stadium in the country at that time. On the grounds of the facility was a park, aptly named "Stadium Park". This park still exists although presently is much more disjointed from the stadium as part of the park was used as the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and also because what is left of the park is separated from Benson Stadium by Interstate 77. Benson Stadium was constructed as a replacement for League Field, the city's previous stadium, where Canton's professional football team, the Canton Bulldogs, played many of their games.
The stadium seats around 22,400. Five Canton area high schools have played their football seasons on this field (McKinley High School - Bulldogs, Lincoln High School - Lions, Lehman High School - Polar Bears, GlenOak High School - Golden Eagles, and Timken High School - Trojans). Future Cleveland Browns great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley, who along with fellow Hall of Famer Bill Willis broke the color barrier in modern professional football with the Cleveland Browns in 1946, scored the first touchdown in the stadium in 1938. It also hosts the annual National Football League (NFL) Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at the beginning of the exhibition season.
Presently it is the home field for the McKinley Senior High School Bulldog football team and two colleges: Walsh University and Malone University. Three of the Ohio High School Athletic Association football state championship games were held at Fawcett Stadium during the first weekend of December. The other three were held at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in nearby Massillon. In 2014, the OHSAA football championships were moved back to Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
In 1997, Benson Stadium underwent a major renovation and a name change. Backed by the Canton community, $4.3 million worth of improvements were completed on the stadium. Some of the major improvements included state-of-the-art Astroturf with a player friendly rubber base, new locker room facilities, new scoreboard with graphics display screen, new lighting, new sound system, new electrical services, structural repairs, vinyl caps for all wooden seats, and a renovated press box. The newly renovated facility was also renamed to include the words Pro Football Hall of Fame Field.
From 1997 to 2000, Benson Stadium was the home of the Victory Bowl, the NCCAA championship football game. In 2002, the Sporting News rated Benson Stadium the number one high school football venue in America.
It hosted the 2015 IFAF World Championship in July 2015.
After the 2015 Hall of Fame game concluded, demolition began on the north side of the stadium beginning with the removal of the light posts on the north side and the northeast and northwest corners. A few weeks later on September 10, demolition crews began dismantling the north side bleachers to make way for the new stadium. Due to construction, football games hosted by McKinley, Walsh University, and Malone limited fans to the south side bleachers and the two end zone bleachers throughout the 2015 season. On October 31, 2015, McKinley renewed their rivalry with the Massillon Tigers by closing Fawcett Stadium with a 30–28 victory over Massillon in the 126th edition of The War of 1894. Following the game, crews came in to remove the turf, northeast corner scoreboard, and end zone bleachers as demolition resumed on the south side. The existing press box will be demolished along with the south grandstand after the 2016 Hall of Fame Game as new plans came about. Due to construction, McKinley will play their home games at Canton Central Catholic Stadium while Malone will play at Bob Commings Field, the home of the Glen Oak Eagles and Walsh will play at Memorial Stadium, the home of the Hoover Vikings, for the 2016 season as Hall of Fame Stadium is being constructed. The final phase of construction will begin after the 2016 Hall of Fame Game. On August 7, approximately an hour prior to kickoff, the 2016 Hall of Fame Game was cancelled due to poor field conditions.
- "Fawcett Stadium". Football.ballparks.com. 1999-08-09. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- "Tom Benson donates $11M to Hall" (Press release). Pro Football Hall of Fame. November 24, 2014. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Patra, Kevin (November 24, 2014). "Tom Benson makes $11 million pledge to Hall of Fame". National Football League. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- "Canton McKinley Football - Stadium and Facilities". Cantonmckinley.com. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- "Football To Return To Roots, Play In Memorial Stadium in 2016 - Walsh University". athletics.walsh.edu. Retrieved 2016-08-06.
- "No home games for McKinley in 2016". FridayNightOhio.com. September 2, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2015.
|Events and tenants|
|Home of the Victory Bowl
1997 – 2000
Ernest W. Spangler Stadium