By Sen. Rob Portman
With the Baltimore Ravens’ dramatic win over the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday in New Orleans, yet another exciting National Football League season comes to a close.
Although we have a Super Bowl champ that is neither the Bengals nor the Browns, the future looks a little brighter for both teams.
But there’s no football off-season in Canton, Ohio.
This September, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton turns 50. Along with a special series of events throughout the summer, culminating in its annual enshrinement ceremony, the Hall of Fame is on schedule to complete the “Future 50” project, the largest expansion and renovation in its history, and the first since 1995.
To support the Future 50 project and to highlight the important work of the Hall of Fame, I’ve introduced the bipartisan Pro Football Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act with my friend Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.
At no cost to the taxpayer, our legislation authorizes the U.S. Mint to create a commemorative coin dedicated to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and requires that proceeds from coin sales be used first to cover the cost to the U.S. Mint, and then to help support the Future 50 expansion and renovation project.
As you know if you have visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it represents the best of the Buckeye State to the world by faithfully honoring the legends of professional football, preserving the game’s history, educating the public, and promoting the positive values of the sport.
Since first opening its doors in 1963, the Hall of Fame has been an economic engine in Northeast Ohio. Each year, an estimated 200,000 visitors from across the country make the pilgrimage to Canton, contributing $30 million annually to Ohio’s economy.
And these numbers will likely trend upward, as more and more fans flock to professional football. Last weekend, the Super Bowl attracted 108 million viewers, a significant increase from the 26,000 who tuned in to the first Super Bowl in 1967.
In addition, this year, seven new enshrinees will join the 273 already in Canton – including the 23 who played for the Bengals or Browns. These newest members are Cris Carter (former Ohio State Buckeye and an Ohio native), Larry Allen, Curley Culp, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson, and Warren Sapp.
The growth in both the popularity and history of the game means the Hall needs to expand. It already houses over 7 million artifacts and documents about the game and additional space is needed to house more.
It was against this background that the Hall of Fame launched the Future 50 project to expand its museum from the current 85,000 square feet to 118,000 square feet. These changes will set the Hall of Fame on a better course for the future by enabling it to host new and expanded exhibits and displays.
The Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin Act made significant inroads in the previous Congress, and I’m hopeful we can get it passed this year. The U.S. House of Representatives approved this legislation last year, under the steady leadership of Ohio Congressman Jim Renacci, and we had 13 U.S. Senate cosponsors. And we are redoubling our efforts during this, the 50th anniversary year.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the pride of Canton and an Ohio landmark of national significance. I am proud to support what the Hall does to honor the legends of football and support the Canton-area economy.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from Ohio.