This week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will turn 50 years old. As the sport has evolved over that time, so has it’s most hallowed museum, located in Canton, Ohio.
The “Golden Anniversary Reunion” will take place at the Hall on August 3rd, in what promises to be as much of a red-carpet event for the NFL as anything, including the Super Bowl. According to cleveland.com, at least 130 of the 162 living inductees are expected to attend the ceremony. The celebrations will include the commemoration of a $27 million renovation project, as well as the induction of the newest class of NFL legends, which includes Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson and Warren Sapp. New York Jets legend QB Joe Namath has reportedly been asked to serve as the ribbon-cutter for the reveal of the renovations.
This is expected to be the largest gathering of Hall of Famers in any sport ever. Ten years ago, for the Hall’s 40th anniversary, 111 HOFers turned out. The average is usually around 75-80 inductees who attend each year’s ceremonies for the newest class. While all those who have confirmed attendance are noteworthy, the likes of Dick Butkus, Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell, Jerry Rice, Joe Greene, Bruce Smith, and Don Shula stand out.
Canton, located in Stark County, Ohio, received the rights to the Hall over five decades ago because of the strong roots the NFL has in Canton, where Jim Thorpe once played almost 100 years ago. The Hall, originally 19, 000 square feet, has now grown to 118, 000 square feet, and draws at least 150, 000 visitors every year; 186,429 in 2012. The all-time record for attendance in a single year at the Hall is 330, 029 in 1973.
In its earliest stages, there were some within the sport that proposed the Hall be moved to a bigger area, such as Los Angeles. However, Hall of Fame VP of Communications and Exhibits Jim Horrigan, who has worked in Canton since 1977, knew that the Hall was in the perfect spot to flourish.
“We wanted to show this is the place it should be and let us polish our diamond (here),” said Horrigan. “And that’s what we have done over the last couple of decades to where we now think we have the best hall of fame in the world.”
The Football Hall of Fame serves as both a place for fans to relive the memories of their favorite players, as well as a showcase of what is possible for all of the first-year players that are required to tour the Hall as part of the NFL’s Rookie Symposium each year. By the same note, it is a reminder to players that to one day reach the Hall, they must act like a Hall of Famer, on and off the field. This week, the Hall removed a photo of Aaron Hernandez from its exhibits, in light of the former Patriots’ pending murder charge.
In a matter of 50 years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has transformed from just another attraction to the mecca of football fandom. As the Hall heads into its second century, it finds the sport it celebrates stronger and more popular than it has ever been. Any football fan would consider themselves lucky to be in Canton, Ohio this week, for what promises to be a historic gathering of the greatest players to ever appear on the gridiron.
For more of our stories on the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 see below:
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