ATLANTA — Fundraisers for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta are facing a tough deadline to raise $15 million if construction is to begin in February as scheduled.
In this economy, that’s a major challenge and the reason Gary Stokan said he is stepping down as president and CEO of the Atlanta Hall Management.
Stokan said Atlanta needs a full-time expert in corporate fundraising and he needs to focus on his duties as the head of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He used a football analogy to describe the critical stage of the city’s drive to have the Hall of Fame move from South Bend, Ind.
“We’ve got the thing to the red zone and now I’m in my busiest time of the year with the bowl game,” Stokan told The Associated Press. “So to get the rest done by February, they need somebody to focus on the fundraising. I’m not a corporate CEO so I don’t have the kind of ability to get other corporate CEOs to help fund this thing, so I think in the short term we need that.”
Stokan announced Monday he is leaving his post with the hall management team.
“My job with the hall was to get it to where we could get it opened,” Stokan said. “That took getting a site, raising money, getting a ground lease, legislating for state money, and then along with that was getting all the architects and designers and development people and the staff all together.”
Stokan said the go-ahead to break ground in February awaits only the final $15 million needed for the $50 million project. There already has been one delay.
The Atlanta group originally targeted construction to begin in August and the facility to open in the spring of 2013. If work can begin in February, the Hall of Fame would open in September 2013.
The National Football Foundation, which owns the rights to the Hall of Fame, announced plans to move the hall to Atlanta in 2009. The foundation’s president and CEO, Steve Hatchell, said Wednesday he remains optimistic about the project.
“We are excited about the future of the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, and we anticipate that this is going to be a huge success,” Hatchell said in a prepared statement.