HOF president doing best to bring football to the public

G. Patrick Kelley

Steve Perry would like to see every football fan visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but since that’s not possible, he plans to take the Hall to the fans.

As president and executive director of the Hall of Fame, Perry runs a small business -- 34 full-time employees -- that has an impact far beyond the more than 200,000 who are expected to walk through the front door this year.

It’s a diverse operation.

Dave Motts, vice president of marketing and operations, calls the Hall a museum, educational institution, travel attraction, sports attraction, private events facility, special-events facility and a good community partner.

It’s a recipe for success.

“If somebody just sells hamburger, and people aren’t eating hamburgers, you’re in trouble there,” Motts said.

One of Perry’s main concerns obviously is taking care of the artifacts entrusted to the Hall, but his top concern is “to do an ever-improving job of honoring the individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the game.”

“Unmatched” national coverage of the enshrinement ceremony and Hall of Fame Game is one way of doing that, but “having a hall of fame that has exhibits and displays that are exciting” is another.

“Some people might design a car and look at it and say, ‘Wow.’ I think it happens more in a business like this.”

Perry also wants to reach out to those who may never come to Canton by developing national traveling displays. They would take certain themes, from strictly football to societal, Perry said. He envisions displays that feature “players, coaches and owners who served in the military,” or “African-American pioneers in pro football.”

At some point, he’d like to have as many as five traveling exhibits circulating.

“That would multiply by millions the people who would have a taste of the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” he said. “It would whet their appetites.”

He wants to expand on telling the history of the National Football League and American Football League as well as the story of the merger. He wants to continue modernization of the Hall, but in some instances: “Maybe the best way is to leave the technology old,” he said. “That’s one of those creative discussions.”

The collective efforts have a goal, he said.

“If we do all those things well, that’s a way of honoring those people who played pro football.”

His other focus is taking care of the artifacts and documents. About 80 to 90 percent of any museum’s collection is in archives, and that holds true for the Hall. In documents alone, the Hall has about 18 million pages. Those pages should be digitized so that when historians and writers need to see them, they don’t have to handle the originals, which is wearing on the paper.

The Hall’s environment also needs to be adapted for better preservation of aging items.

Like most executives, there are parts of his job that are better than others. His favorite? “Interaction with the Hall of Famers, no doubt,” he said.

He recalls his first day on the job and receiving congratulatory calls from Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and Green Bay Packers great Bart Starr.

“It’s not that I am into hero worship, but I am a fan of people who have made the most of their God-given talents to make the most of themselves.”

Canton Repository