CANTON: Throughout its reconstruction, confusion has circulated about how Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium was paid for — mostly, about how much public money helped to finance the nearly $139 million project.
The answer: $15 million.
The rest of the stadium was paid through private donations and loans, according to financial documents The Canton Repository obtained through public records requests.
Comparatively, most football stadiums built in the past decade have relied on at least 25 percent funding in public dollars, usually far higher percentages.
Budget documents prepared by developers and filed with the Stark County Port Authority detail how much the stadium cost, where money came from and how costs changed during construction. They show the financing plan largely relied on equity, loans and naming rights — not on public support.
Benson Stadium was dedicated last August, but some work remains. The east end zone needs to be built, estimated to cost $8 million, as does the permanent scoreboard, which will be part of the facade of another building envisioned for the Village.
The stadium is the most visible component of the nearly $1 billion Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village planned for the campus around the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Several new youth fields also have been constructed, and a four-star hotel broke ground more than a year ago, with resumption expected this year.
How much did stadium cost?
In total, it cost about $139 million. Here’s how that breaks down:
$37 million for the north stands, including:
• $5 million in demolition and site work
• $7.9 million in soft costs
• $15.7 million for the structure
$101.9 million for the south stands and west end zone, including:
• $7.7 million in soft costs
• $9.2 million to the site contractor
• $9.4 million for IT and technology
• $66.4 million for the structure
How was it paid for?
• $1.3 million in additional equity
• $2.56 million from master developer Industrial Realty Group
• $4.15 million from the Hall
• $5 million from the city of Canton
• $10 million commercial and industrial loan from Huntington National Bank
• $14 million commercial real estate loan from Huntington National Bank
= $37 million
All of the public funding that helped build the stadium was used during the construction of the north stands, which concluded in August 2016.
The city of Canton’s donation was approved in 2014 under a different City Council and mayor and was intended to be a goodwill gesture to show support for a potentially transformational development project. The city borrowed the money for the grant, and this year will make its first $250,000 payment on the principal, plus pay nearly $100,000 in interest.
The Hall also received $10 million from the state of Ohio through a capital budget grant, and invoices developers sent to the state show they were seeking reimbursement for a portion of the cost of constructing the north stands. The money was awarded in installments between April and August of 2016, but that funding isn’t listed as a funding source in stadium budget documents.
South stands and west end zone:
• $9 million from the Hall
• $10.96 million from the up-to-$100 million bridge loan secured, in part, to finish paying contractors who helped build the stadium
• $19.4 million from the Johnson Controls naming rights’ deal for the Village (a portion of a more-than-$100 million, 18-year agreement)
• $62.5 million in additional equity
= $101.9 million
Developers had budgeted $13.6 million in bonds as part of the financing plan for the second, more expensive phase of building the stadium. The bonds were supposed to be backed by revenue expected from property-tax breaks on new construction and from increased taxes charged to people visiting the Hall or attending events on the campus. That financing source was removed, however, and additional investment in the project was added.
What made the cost change?
The cost of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium grew over time as plans for the facility evolved.
The original price tag for a stadium rebuild as presented in 2014 was $24.3 million. When Village developers the following year presented the results of a study that calculated potential economic impact of the planned Village, the scope of the stadium project was revised and the cost was pegged at $80 million.
By the time construction started, developers had budgeted $34.1 million for the north stands, which broke ground in 2015, and $104.6 million for the south stands, which broke ground in 2016.
It was the north stands that rose in cost during construction, largely from increases in associated legal fees, general conditions and contract management. The south stands actually clocked in at $2.7 million less than developers had planned, project budgets show.
Industrial Realty Group and the Hall were partners for the stadium project. Future development will be overseen by a new board of directors, led by financial and strategic adviser Michael Klein.
Who owns the stadium?
The Stark County Port Authority does, technically.
The Canton City School District owns the land on which Benson Stadium sits. That land is leased to the Village developers through the port authority, which is a public body local governments may create to promote economic development.
Under terms of an agreement among the port authority, the school district and developers, the port accepts ownership of improvements to Village property, then leases those improvements to Village developers. So, for example, the port authority accepts ownership of Benson Stadium and leases the facility to developers, who operate the stadium privately.
So is the stadium a public facility, or is it a private one? Well, it’s both, said Harry Eadon Jr., chairman of the Ohio Council of Port Authorities. It’s public from the standpoint the port authority owns it, but because it’s leased to a private entity, that private entity gets control over the leased property.
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