Aerial of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
|Former names||Fawcett Stadium|
|Location||Canton, Ohio, U.S.|
|Owner||Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village|
|Surface||Natural grass (1938-1997)|
Turf Nation (2016-present)
|Opened||1938, 81 years ago|
|Canton McKinley HS Bulldogs (1924-present)|
Lincoln HS Lions (1926-1975)
Lehman HS Polar Bears (1932-1975)
Hall of Fame Game (NFL) (1962-present)
GlenOak HS Golden Eagles (1997-2006)
Canton Timken HS Trojans (1976-2014)
Malone Pioneers (NCAA) (1993-2018)
Walsh Cavaliers (NCAA) (1998-present)
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (formerly Fawcett Stadium) is a football stadium and entertainment complex in Canton, Ohio. It is a major component of Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village, located adjacent to the grounds of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The venue hosts the annual NFL Hall of Fame Game and has served as the home for Canton McKinley High School, Malone University, and Walsh University, among others.
First dedicated as Fawcett Stadium in 1938, the stadium's original name honored the memory of John A. Fawcett, a former Canton board of education member, who died several years before the stadium was completed.
On November 24, 2014, it was announced that Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, would be donating to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, of which was to go into renovating Fawcett Stadium. In response to Benson's donation, the Hall of Fame announced that Fawcett Stadium would be renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which was dedicated on August 3, 2017. Benson died less than a year later, on March 15, 2018.
The stadium was built from 1937 to 1939 at an estimated cost of $500,000. The federal government in the form of manpower, the WPA, paid for $400,000 while a school board bond issue paid for the materials. The stadium originally seated 15,000 and was the largest high school stadium in the country at that time.
On the grounds of the facility was a park, aptly named "Stadium Park". This park still exists although presently is much more disjointed from the stadium as part of the park was used as the site of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and also because what is left of the park is separated from Benson Stadium by Interstate 77.
Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium seats 23,000 and has an NFL-caliber press box.
Five Canton area high schools have played their football seasons on this field (McKinley Bulldogs, Lincoln Lions, Lehman Polar Bears, GlenOak Golden Eagles, and Canton Timken Trojans). Future Cleveland Browns great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marion Motley, who along with fellow Hall of Famer Bill Willis broke the color barrier in modern professional football with the Cleveland Browns in 1946, scored the first touchdown in the stadium in 1938. Each summer, it hosts the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, the first contest of the National Football League (NFL) exhibition season.
It is presently the home field for the McKinley Senior High School and Walsh University. The Ohio High School Athletic Association football state championship games were split between Fawcett Stadium and nearby Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon between 1991-2014, and all football state championship games were played at the stadium in 2017 and 2018.
In 1997, the stadium underwent a major renovation and a name change. Backed by the Canton community, $4.3 million worth of improvements were completed on the stadium. Some of the major improvements included state-of-the-art Astroturf with a player friendly rubber base, new locker room facilities, new scoreboard with graphics display screen, new lighting, new sound system, new electrical services, structural repairs, vinyl caps for all wooden seats, and a renovated press box. The newly renovated facility was also renamed to include the words Pro Football Hall of Fame Field.
From 1997 to 2000, Benson Stadium was the home of the Victory Bowl, the NCCAA championship football game. In 2002, The Sporting News rated Benson Stadium the number one high school football venue in America.
In 2009, the stadium hosted the inaugural IFAF Junior World Championship of American Football. The tournament gathered 16 best national teams from around the world. It hosted the 2015 IFAF World Championship in 2015.
After the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame game concluded, demolition began on the stadium. The construction limited fan seating during the fall football season. The final phase of construction was scheduled to begin after the 2016 Hall of Fame Game. However, approximately an hour prior to kickoff, the game was cancelled due to poor field conditions caused by the use of improper paints applied to the field to create the Hall of Fame logo and other on-field graphics.