Legends Landing: A residence for former NFL players to be built in Canton

By Jeff Nixon
Apr. 15, 2016

In a , I discussed the idea of a facility being built exclusively for former NFL players when they get to that “senior citizen” stage of their lives. I’m not exactly sure what that stage, or age is for some players. Personally, I’d like to live to the ripe old age of 100, but I’ll probably need some kind of living assistance when I hit the 80 or 90 year mark – if I’m lucky enough to get there.

The facility I envisioned would be for any former player – not just the guys with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or ALS, or other neurocognitive impairments. There are plenty of facilities that specialize in providing care for our less fortunate brethren. The nationwide network of Senior Care facilities are well aware of the fact that former NFL players with those impairments and diseases qualify for the 88 plan - and can afford the cost of staying at their facilities. They’re also licking their chops knowing that some of these players could also qualify for millions of dollars under the NFL Concussion Settlement and will have some discretionary funds available to spend on products and services available at their facilities. Some, like  are taking full advantage of this opportunity.

Something similar to what Validus is doing is beginning to take shape in Canton, at the proposed Pro Football Hall of Fame Village. Five to 10 companies are looking to invest in a 150-unit assisted living facility for football greats called “Legends Landing.”

Stuart Lichter, president and chairman of the Industrial Realty Group will be the HOF Village’s primary developer. The 66-year-old real estate tycoon is using his company to get financing for the proposed Hall of Fame Village. As the master developer on the $476 million project, IRG will be responsible for securing the private capital to make the entire project a reality. The funding will be used for numerous Hall of Fame facility and .

The Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stdium in Canton, Ohio

While Lichter is optimistic about the project, but he’s also being realistic.

“This isn’t a business where things happen overnight,” Lichter said. “You can’t do D in my business until you finish A, B and C. I’ve been asked about getting financing lined up for this (HOF Village) project. If you understand this business, you can’t start on getting financing until you have (building plans), some tenants and costs figured out. We’re not at a step where we can start on D yet.”

There are two other meanings for the letter D: You can’t do dick, until you get your ducks lined up. The good news is, he’s got some big ducks with some big bucks! 

The idea of a facility for former players impressed New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson so much, he donated $1 million toward its completion. Benson also  toward renovations at the former Fawcett Stadium, which has now being renamed the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Tom Benson and his wife at the Hall of Fame grounf breaking ceremony

The total construction cost for Legends Landing has been estimated at $25 million and they are projecting a grand opening in May of 2018.

The Hall of Fame Executive Director, David Baker knows something about this type of project because he, himself, has owned and developed senior care facilities. In an  posted at CantonRep.com, he said he wants to avoid the warehouses some places become for people without a support system and that aging people often want to return to a trusted institution, so religious organizations and universities have developed assisted housing, as the Hall and NFL hope to do.

Dave Baker presents Tom Benson with a Hall of fame helmet autographed by numerous Hall of Fame players.

In addition to the NFL, I’m also glad to know that the NFLPA is supporting Legends Landing. They've even in conjunction with the NFL draft on April 28, 2016.

It's important to know that the company selected to design and build the Legends Landing facility, , has created similar senior housing for Naval and Air Force personnel, such as Fleet’s Landing in Florida  and . Take a look at those websites and you will see that the military has some pretty nice digs for its veterans! 

John Brendel, the Senior Living Division Leader for Haskell also worked with Dave Baker on the Union Village health care complex in Henderson, Nevada. He said that “In each situation, they have been very, very well received from inception,” and that “They fill up pretty quickly and typically do not have many empty units. It is marketed to those folks as a place to retire where other like-minded individuals and people with the same life experiences have chosen to retire.”

In my article, “Field of Dreams” I said that if they build it, we will come. But, it's got to be a really nice place with all the amenities I talked about......and then some.

I love Buffalo. It's been my home ever since I retired from the Bills, but the six months of cold and snow and freezing rain are starting to wear me down. I like Canton too, but I sure hope we can find a way to build a nice facility in a warm weather state like Florida or Southern California, or I probably won’t be coming. I’m sure there are a lot of other “like-minded” former players that feel the same way. 

It's time to get that shovel in the dirt! 


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