'An absolute win.' Community leaders react to USFL's expanding presence in Canton
CANTON – Community leaders expect the USFL to give an economic boost to Stark County as the league expands its presence in Canton during its second season.
Officials with the USFL and Hall of Fame Village announced Wednesday that Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium will serve as the host site for the Pittsburgh Maulers and New Jersey Generals during the 2023 regular season, which kicks off in April.
Canton will also host the league's North Division Playoff Game and Championship Game over the summer. The city hosted postseason games for the USFL last year during the league's inaugural season.
Tonja Marshall, chief marketing officer at Visit Canton, said the agency believes the USFL's expanding presence in Canton will have a positive effect on the local economy. Visit Canton estimated that last year's championship game and divisional playoff game had economic impacts of $2.5 million and $1.49 million, respectively. In addition, Canton's overnight hotel occupancy rate was up 13% the weekend of the championship.
"That's just from hosting those handful of events last year," Marshall said. "Obviously the regular season impact will be smaller per game, but to have that number of games hosted here and the training camps and to have those players and coaches and the operations staff and the teams here in our community ... (we're) definitely excited to have that impact."
Similarly, Dennis Saunier, president and CEO of the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the USFL will be great for the area.
"Having two teams, one from New Jersey and one from Pittsburgh, practicing and playing games here has the potential to bring a large amount of visitors to the community who will stay in the hotels and spend dollars in our service businesses," Saunier said.
Walsh University dean: 'An absolute win for Canton, the region and northeastern Ohio.'
Michael Petrochuk, dean of Walsh University's DeVille School of Business, described the announcement as "an absolute win for Canton, the region and northeastern Ohio."
Petrochuk said the USFL will have a direct and indirect impact on the area. Hotels, restaurants, retailers and transportation services will benefit directly from football fans coming to the area and spending money at businesses. Meanwhile, the food suppliers used by restaurants and the manufacturers that produce merchandise sold at the stadium will benefit indirectly from the economic activity.
There is also the induced economic impact, or the spending that occurs as a result of a change in the economy.
An example would be individuals who are hired to work at the stadium during games or restaurants giving their employees more hours to help meet demand.
"All of the folks that work in the area, who now are maybe making a little bit more money because of hours or a new job, that all goes back into the economy," Petrochuk said. "We've estimated in the past that it's a seven-fold increase. So every time you spend one dollar in our region, it has the multiplier effect of seven."
Hall of Fame could see more activity
Petrochuk said the Pro Football Hall of Fame also will likely benefit from the USFL being in Canton.
"If you're coming in from out of town, you love football if you're coming to a football game," he said. "Guess what? The Hall of Fame is right there. So I could see a windfall for the Hall of Fame, and as the Village continues to develop, all of its residual businesses and ventures as well."
A handful of projects are on the horizon at the Hall of Fame Village, including a football-themed indoor water park. Construction started on the 147,000-square-foot facility near the end of last year. The water park will be located next to a Hilton Tapestry hotel.
Saunier said the continued growth of Hall of Fame Village has helped make Canton an ideal place for major events.
"What the community is really building there is a destination," he said. "And so, with the type of assets of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, (it) really makes this a prime choice for events such as the USFL. It will add definitely to the local economy."
Michael Crawford, president and CEO of Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment, said during a press conference Wednesday that having the USFL is a big opportunity for both the company and the community.
"When you think about the Fox (television broadcasting) partnership here and nationally televising these games, the ability for Canton to have the exposure, and to create awareness around all the great things that are happening in our community, is invaluable for us," Crawford said. "So we're very thankful to have the opportunity to host, to be able to create that economic uplift, and also to be able to give a greater profile to our community."
He credited "great partners" in Stark County for helping to attract the USFL while expanding the league's presence in Canton, citing Canton City Council, Stark County commissioners, local foundations and Visit Canton.
Football fan: 'Great news for me.'
Some Northeast Ohio residents reacted to the USFL news on social media.
"Great news for me, live in Cleveland area and will be going a few times at a minimum," one Facebook user wrote.
Canton resident and Cleveland Browns fan Laura Henderson Switzer said she's excited to see more USFL games in the city. An avid football fan, she attended the USFL championship game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium last summer and said it was a fun time.
Switzer, who works as a restaurant manager, said she's planning to go to a few games this year. She hopes the USFL makes a big splash as she loves being able to watch football during the spring and summer.
"I certainly hope (this will be good for the community)," she said. "I mean, we need to get back into community events and everything."
Repository staff writer Ed Balint contributed to this report.
Reach Paige at 330-580-8577, email@example.com or on Twitter @paigembenn.
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Canton leaders excited about USFL expanding presence in community