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Ohio lawmakers seek millions for Pro Football Hall of Fame, other Stark projects

Published By Canton Repository on February 7, 2024
Scott Oelslager In The News

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, Akron-Canton Airport, downtown Minerva and some Stark County higher education projects are in line to receive a funding boost from state lawmakers.

Ohio House legislators on Wednesday released their list — House Bill 2 — of how they want to spend their half of $700 million allocated for the One Time Strategic Community Investments Fund, which is what lawmakers have set aside from federal pandemic relief funds to spend on local community projects. The Ohio Senate is expected to decide this spring how it will spend its $350 million.

Under House Bill 2, nearly $13 million has been designated for regional projects, including $7 million for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s modernization project and $2.5 million for the Akron-Canton Airport’s West Side Development for Aeronautic Activity.

State Rep. Scott Oelslager, a Republican who serves as second-in-command in the Ohio House and who represents the 48th district that includes most communities northeast of Canton, said the proposed Hall of Fame and airport investments also will help boost the local economy as they bring in out-of-town visitors who will stay to shop in local stores, sleep in local hotels and eat at local restaurants.

“Both of these are transformational in the sense that they have an economic ripple effect for Stark County and the region,” he said.

House Bill 2, which totals $2 billion for the next two years, also includes $600 million for school building projects, $400 million for public works infrastructure projects and $250 million for local jail construction and renovations, all of which Oelslager noted could be used for eligible Stark County projects.

The House also designated nearly $398 million for higher education projects, with nearly $7.2 million slated for projects at Stark County institutions.

Lawmakers from both the House and Senate also are working through which projects to recommend for the state’s two-year capital bill, which has funded roughly $7 million in Stark County projects in each of the last two cycles.

Here’s what to know about the proposed local projects under House Bill 2:

Pro Football Hall of Fame plans multimillion-dollar upgrade

The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Museum is planning an $80 million modernization project that its leaders say will represent the most comprehensive renovation and expansion project since the museum opened in 1963.

“We believe this project will position the Hall to be the leader in economic development for the area that was envisioned when it opened 61 years ago,” said Hall of Fame President Jim Porter, who thanked Oelslager and the state legislators for sharing the Hall’s vision for how the project would benefit Canton and the entire Northeast Ohio region.

The museum at 2121 George Halas Drive NW, which is separate from the Hall of Fame Village entertainment complex that surrounds it, plans to renovate and modernize its existing 120,000-square-foot footprint, build a new 8,000-square-foot grand lobby featuring high-tech interactive exhibition gallery spaces, create additional office and storage space, and construct an 18,500-square-foot community event center complex that would be available to charity groups at reduced rates.

The Black College Football Hall of Fame is expected to make the Hall of Fame its permanent home as part of the project.

The first phase of the four-phase project is expected to begin in late spring. The project, which has been nearly two years in the making, is expected to take between three and five years to complete. SoL Harris/Day Architecture and Beaver Excavating Co. have been hired to complete the designs and preliminary work.

Minerva looks to revitalize its downtown

Minerva, which straddles Stark, Carroll and Columbiana counties, is in line to receive $200,000 to revitalize its downtown, which has been an ongoing goal for the past decade.

The village already has plans to create a downtown pocket park along High Street that will hold a music stage, seating areas, landscaping and interactive components such as permanent corn hole boards. The pocket park, which would be between Main and Market streets, would be located within the village’s existing designated outdoor drinking district, according to Village Administrator Benjamin W. Gunderson.

Other regional projects in line for funding include $2.9 million for Columbiana County’s Annex/Drug Task Force Building, $200,000 for Carroll County’s Agricultural Service Center and $2.5 million for the Akron-Canton Airport’s planned improvements to its west side to create additional space to accommodate the growth of its aircraft operations.

Upgrades planned for Stark State, Kent State Stark

Stark State College is in line to receive $6.5 million in state higher education funds. Among the projects proposed for the college, which has campuses in Stark and Summit counties, are $3.17 million for heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrades and replacements; $1 million for roof replacements, $1.47 million for elevator restorations and $842,000 for fire alarm system upgrades.

As part of Kent State University’s $29 million in proposed funding, $652,392 is being recommended to replace Kent State Stark’s chiller plant.

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