NEW ORLEANS SAINTS Owner TOM BENSON has pledged $11 million in donations to the PRO FOOTBALL HALL Of FAME, the largest gift in the Hall's 51-year history!!!
NOLA reports TOM BENSON said in a statement;
"Canton is the birthplace of football. Football has a very direct and strong connection to New Orleans. The game of football has served as a positive beacon in our city. It has given our citizens hope in tough trying times. ... My donation to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was an easy decision, it was a right decision and it was a decision that I believe will have great impact on the current game and help foster a better game in the future while also having direct and tangible impacts on the legends of our game with the Legends Landing."
The majority of Benson's donation ($10 million) is targeted for the renovation of PRO FOOTBALL HALL Of FAME FIELD At FAWCETT STADIUM (FAWCETT STADIUM), which is scheduled to undergo a $24 million overhaul starting next year.
The stadium, which sits adjacent to the Hall of Fame and plays host to the annual Hall of Fame exhibition game in August, will be renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. The venue had been named Fawcett Stadium since it opened in 1938.
Another $1 million is targeted for the Hall of Fame's Legends Landing Program, a mixed-use residence that includes rooms for Hall of Famers and other retired NFL players and employees.
The stadium renovation is part of an ambitious $250 million Hall of Fame Village master plan approved by the Hall's board of directors Oct. 30. The plan, which officials view as "the Disney World of football," includes: a sports and entertainment complex; a high-end hotel that could house the two NFL teams that play in the annual exhibition game; a youth football center and playing fields; a center for athletic performance and safety; a coaching academy; an interactive fan experience; and an institute for integrity and officiating.
Officials hope to complete the project by 2020 to coincide with the centennial celebration of pro football, which was started in Canton, Ohio, in 1920.
NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL said;
"Tom Benson's leadership has been instrumental in the NFL's success and growth for nearly 30 years as owner of the Saints, including more than 20 years as chairman of the league's Finance Committee. His generous gift to the Hall of Fame will forever link Tom's legacy to the game he loves and to the legends who helped build it."
Benson's donation is the first by an NFL owner toward the project. His relationship with Hall of Fame President David Baker spans almost two decades. Baker was the commissioner of the Arena Football League when Benson launched the New Orleans VooDoo and he's maintained a relationship with the owner, despite his son Sam's tenure with the archrival Atlanta Falcons.
PRO FOOTBALL HALL Of FAME President DAVID BAKER said;
"I have spent too many long nights in the Superdome after watching the Saints beat the Falcons, but I have a great affection for Tom Benson. This was not about naming rights or his legacy but about what he could do for youth football, the legends of the game and perpetuating the game for others. This is an act of generosity and an interest not in the buildings, but what those programs can do for people."
In a letter to fellow NFL owners that will be Monday, Benson said his donation was partly motivated by the bad publicity the NFL has received recently for abuse scandals involving high-profile players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson and its perceived disregard for player safety. He also challenged his peers to match his contributions.
TOM BENSON continued;
"While the National Football League is, according to every business metric stronger than ever, our beloved Game continues to face unprecedented challenges and scrutiny. It's for that reason, when approached by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, that I have decided to make a financial gift to the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently announced master plan - the Hall of Fame Village and specifically the Legends Landing.While recognition for a gift like this is nice, it is not the point," Benson said. "The point is understanding what is behind the plans of the Hall of Fame village for me and once I learned them I wanted to play a role. As in any business I have been involved in whether it is the football business or the banking business or automobile business, it is important to me that I put more into it than I take out and I feel this small part I am playing here is my way of saying thank you to the great game of football."
Benson's charitable donations in New Orleans have been well documented. In 2010, he gave $8 million to his alma mater, Loyola University, and $5 million to Ochsner Hospital. In 2012, Benson pledged $7.5 million toward the construction of Yulman Stadium on the campus of Tulane University and $10 million to Brother Martin High School. And earlier this year he donated $5 million to Team Gleason. He has also donated millions to various charitable endeavors in the greater San Antonio, Texas, area.
TOM BENSON is also owner of New Orleans NBA franchise, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS.