Mr. Benson to donate $11 million to the NFL Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame stadium will be renamed in honor of him.
The donation is the largest donation to the Hall of Fame. The donation is two-fold. One project is to renovate the stadium ($10m) attached to the Hall of Fame, which was formerly named Fawcett stadium. It is the site of the exhibition games which kicks off each NFL preseason. The other half of the donation ($1m) is to be used residence for seniors that will be dubbed “Legends Landing,” with living spaces for any league contributors who may be in need.
“Football has a very direct and strong connection to New Orleans,” read a statement from Benson. “The game of football has served as a positive beacon in our city — it has given our citizens hope in tough, trying times.”
Added David Baker, president of the Hall of Fame “Mr. Benson … exceeded anything I could’ve asked for. To me, that says more about the man than anything I could ever say.”
Baker and Benson became close during Benson’s ownership of the New Orleans Voodoo and Baker’s stint as the commissioner of the Arena Football League.
“We just developed a good relationship with New Orleans, and that strengthened the relationship with Mr. Benson,” Baker said.
Baker spoke with Greg Bensel, Saints’ vice president of communications, about upcoming plans for the Hall of Fame. Bensel suggested Baker share that information with Benson, who once served as chairman of the NFL’s powerful Finance Committee and would probably be interested in assisting the hall.
In a letter dated Monday, Benson challenged his fellow NFL owners to match his $1 million donation.
“Should a current Hall of Famer or (league alum) fall on a tough time, they would literally have a place to ‘land’ and find a home,” Benson wrote of the project. In an apparent reference to the recent awareness of how dangerous the concussion risks in pro football are, Benson also wrote, “Supporting the … great men that have played this game is more important now than ever.”
Baker said of Benson, “He wasn’t just generous — he was beyond generous.”
“Football … has been a major part of my life for the better part of 30 years,” Benson said. “My donation to the Pro Football Hall of Fame was an easy decision.”