If you’re a die-hard football fan, chances are you’ve considered making the trip to Canton, Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While my veins don’t run with the colors of my favorite NFL team, I am eternally devoted to the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. My trip to the baseball hall in Cooperstown, NY was a transformational pilgrimage. And so, understanding the importance of trips like these to sports fans everywhere, I am excited to share this wheelchair accessible review of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I won’t give too much away, I promise!

Admission to the Hall of Fame

Tickets to the Pro Football Hall of Fame can be purchased online at www.profootballhof.com or in-person at the ticket office. The cost of admission is $25 for adults, $21 for seniors (ages 65+) and $18 for children (ages 6-12). Discounts are available at the ticket office for AAA members (10% off), active duty military ($5 off) and police/fire/paramedics ($5 off).

Pro Football Hall of Fame logo on the building's facade.
Pro Football Hall of Fame logo on the building’s facade.

An optional tour, led by a knowledgeable docent, can be added to your ticket for an additional $10 per person. These guided tours last for one our and begin every day at 12 p.m. My group opted for the tour, and we received some great insight into the history of football (and the Hall of Fame) as a result.

Face-to-face with Football History

I don’t want to ruin the tour for you, but I would like to share a quick overview of what you will see there and provide a few notes on the accessibility of the venue.

Historical gallery at Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Entrance to historical gallery at Pro Football Hall of Fame.

After meeting our tour guide and checking out the massive collection of NFL trading cards (no pictures were allowed, sorry!), we made our way to the exhibit which catalogues the history of professional football. The gallery was called “The NFL’s First Century.”

The birth certificate of Professional Football.
The document considered to be the “birth certificate” of professional football.

The document pictured above, dated November 12, 1892, is considered by many to be the “birth certificate” of professional football. This expense accounting sheet for the Allegheny Athletic Association is the first recorded evidence of a person being compensated for playing football. W. Heffelfinger was given a “game performance bonus” of $500 for playing football.

Minutes from the meeting that established the NFL.
Minutes from the meeting that established the NFL.

The photo above focuses on the two pages of minutes from the September 17, 1920 meeting that established the American Professional Football Association, which later became the National Football League. Only two of the 10 teams represented at that historic meeting remain in the NFL today, the Racine Cardinals (now Arizona Cardinals) and the Decatur Staleys (now Chicago Bears).

As a lover of history, I enjoyed seeing these primary sources that gave a window into the development of professional football, and the way in which it was later structured.

Display charting pro football's path to racial equality.
Display charting pro football’s path to racial equality.

One of the most important historical trends in professional football was integration and the path to equal opportunity for black players in the league.

In 1946, the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns each signed two African American players, a true turning point in the history of football. The display pictured above charts the progress made, but also highlights some regrettable milestones. For instance, the Washington Redskins remained an all-white team until 1962, a full 16 years after the Browns and Rams integrated. Even more shocking, the first African American to serve as a referee at the Super Bowl was Mike Carey in 2008. That Super Bowl, XLII, was won by the New York Giants, who scored 17 points to the Patriots’ 14.

In a different section of the Hall of Fame, NFL history was broken down by decade. Pictured above were the displays for the 1990s and 2000s. The 1990s were dominated by the Dallas Cowboys, who won three Super Bowls, and the Denver Broncos, who won two and lost one. In the first decade of the new century, the New England Patriots appeared four times, winning three, and the Pittsburgh Steelers won twice. Memorabilia from these teams is preserved at the Hall of Fame.

Busts of the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Busts of the members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For the true lovers of professional football, and for the greatest players of the game, the hall pictured above is a sacred place. The Hall of Fame celebrates and memorializes the best players in the history of the game. Each Hall of Famer is enshrined in this hall with a bust, and the room in which they are held is beautiful.

Since 1983, the creation of the bronze busts has been the responsibility of BYU alumnus (and college football player) Blair Buswell. If you’re interested in learning more about his work and how he landed the job, read this ESPN article. In 2005, he had the unique opportunity to sculpt the face of his BYU teammate, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. Now that’s a story!

Bronze bust of Deion Sanders at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Bronze bust of Deion Sanders at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When I entered the Hall of Busts, I immediately began my search for that of legendary cornerback Deion Sanders. Primetime played college football at my alma mater, Florida State University, and was the 5th pick in the 1989 NFL Draft (the year I was born). So, while I didn’t grow up a fan (I’m too young), I came to admire his legacy when I made my way to Florida State. In 2011, during my second year of graduate school at FSU, Deion was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Wheelchair Accessibility at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Te Pro Football Hall of Fame first opened its doors in 1963, but has undergone numerous expansions and renovations which have improved accessibility. A $700-million project is currently underway and has already brought many great things for access to wheelchair users and visitors with disabilities.

The entire Hall of Fame museum is accessible to wheelchair users via ramps and elevators. The ramps pictured above are used to reach the wheelchair accessible Super Bowl Theater (which has a rotating floor!) and the “Pro Football Today”
gallery, which looks at the most recent stories from the NFL.

Current expansion projects are focused on creating a “Disney World for football fans.” The Canton campus has recently seen the construction of the amazing Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. But the work does not stop there.

Rendering of the currently under construction Hall of Fame Village.
Rendering of the currently under construction Hall of Fame Village.

A new “Smart City” labeled the Hall of Fame Village will include the Black College Football Hall of Fame, a youth football and sports complex, a football-themed hotel, a promenade with restaurants and shopping, a center for excellence and a new indoor amusement park. The project is slated for completion next year, in time for the NFL’s 100th season. All of these new features are being built to ADA code and will definitely be reason for me to visit again!

Location & Transportation

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is located in Canton, Ohio, about 3-4 miles from the city center. Canton is about one hour from Cleveland and two hours from Pittsburgh.

Why Canton? If you recall, the American Professional Football Association was founded at a meeting in September 1920. That meeting was held at a car dealership owned by Ralph Hay, who also owned the Canton Bulldogs football team. The Akron-Canton Airport is only 8 miles from the Hall, and is served by American Airlines, Delta, Spirit and United.

My visit to the Hall of Fame was part of a bachelor party, and my group traveled from Cleveland. If you are traveling locally or do not ave your own accessible vehicle, Canton city bus routes 117 and 119 will get you within a half mile of the Hall.

All vehicles are charged $10 to park at the Hall of Fame, so keep this in mind when you visit.

Final Thoughts

My first trip to Canton, Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a success, and our group had a great time.

John with his friends at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
John with his friends at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was a great first stop during my friend Paul’s bachelor party. In the photo above, we were pictured with the trophy that will be given to the winner of this year’s Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018.

A trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the growing Hall of Fame Village should prove to be an enjoyable time for the whole family, a memorable trip for NFL fans and an accessible experience for travelers with disabilities!

Have you visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
What was your experience with the museum’s accessibility?
Let me know in the comments below!

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