On the cusp of the 2014 college football season, SEC Banter had the privilege recently of touring the new College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience.
The brand-spanking-new $68.5 million facility opens in downtown Atlanta next to Centennial Olympic Park today. I can say unequivocally that the new Hall of Fame is an absolute must-visit for any college football fan, from the casual observer (if there is such a thing in the SEC) to your tried and true, obsessive die-hard.
If the words “hall of fame” trigger images of darkened corridors, bronze busts of players bearing little resemblance to actual people, and dusty old displays, not to worry: the College Football Hall of Fame fundamentally alters the traditional hall of fame experience.
While retaining some elements of your grandfather’s hall of fame -— old-fashioned cleats and memorabilia, for example, are there if you look closely — the Hall sets a new standard for museums and is truly a 21st century attraction.
A highly interactive experience using the latest technology, the Hall brings college football to life. Eschewing traditional bronze busts, the Hall honors its inductees with 6-foot tall interactive touch screens.
A few swipes of your finger and there’s Herschel Walker’s display, or any other Hall of Famer, packed with video highlights, interviews, statistics, and more. Head over to a 52-foot wide HD video wall and view countless photos and videos, famous plays etched in our memories, marching bands, aerial shots of stadiums, and other content.
Let the kids run wild on the Hall’s 45-yard football field complete with a regulation-size goal post. If that’s not enough, check out the Game Day Theater and its feature film, “The Game of Your Life,” with voice-overs from the game’s legends describing what college football means to them.
If the movie doesn’t give you chills, you are a hollow, soulless individual. Or, even worse, you’re not a college football fan.
Setting the Hall of Fame experience apart even further is the customization factor. It’s personal, just like college football.
Upon arrival, select your favorite team and the Hall of Fame creates an experience with your team as the focus.
At the Helmet Wall entrance, which displays helmets from all 768 schools that play college football (who knew?), your team’s helmet lights up.
Approach one of several interactive screens scattered throughout the facility and your team’s media content pops up automatically. That 52-foot wide video wall I mentioned? Walk up to it and, through cutting-edge technology, the board configures and displays your favorite team’s material, just for you.
I tested this technology by registering as a Kentucky fan. The Hall’s high-tech screens went blank every time I approached them.
Apparently, locating any material of any relevance whatsoever when it comes to Kentucky football is too daunting of a task, even for a $68.5 million project.
Kidding aside, though its dazzling, modern displays usher in a new era for fans, here’s my favorite part of the Hall of Fame: it captures the essence of America’s sport, college football.
From exhibits on tailgating, storied rivalries, tributes to the military academies, and the origins of the game, the Hall celebrates college football’s passion, pageantry, and traditions, and does so with excellence.
Anyone with even a passing interest in the game or, heck, anyone who appreciates a well-executed, first-class attraction will thoroughly enjoy themselves at the College Football Hall of Fame.
Make it a priority to visit. You will not be disappointed — I assure you.
I’d like to conclude this season’s first installment of SEC Banter by offering a few recommendations for the Hall of Fame. An SEC Banter wish list, if you will. While the Hall is quite impressive, these additions would round out the experience, particularly for SEC fans:
Referee Assault Exhibit: Few SEC fans can last a quarter without hurling incendiary insults at referees for blown calls, bias towards the other team, etc. But we want more than that. The Hall should haul actual SEC referees into a designated, secure area where fans can physically assault them at will.
Bourbon Sampling Exhibit: What’s a fall Saturday in the South without bourbon? The Hall is a family experience, but sometimes bourbon takes precedence over family, and we need a Bourbon Sampling Exhibit or, call it what it is, a bar. This would also give Kentucky an opportunity to contribute.
Pretty Girls Exhibits: What’s a fall Saturday in the south without pretty girls? Let’s face it, part of the college football experience is pretty girls at tailgates and in the stadium crowd. We don’t need anything scandalous, but the Hall can work in some pretty girls here and there, preferably from SEC schools with a few PAC-12 schools thrown in for good measure.
You Be the Head Coach Exhibit: Other than perhaps Alabama fans over the past several years, all SEC fans have foamed at the mouth while calling for their team’s head coach to be fired after a close loss. The Hall should install an in-game simulator where fans call their team’s last-second play with the game on the line. If their team loses, the fans get fired -— from their actual jobs.
Again, I can’t emphasize enough the quality experience to be had at the College Football Hall of Fame. Go. Soon. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on what I hear from the Hall in response to my well-reasoned recommendations.