CANTON − Professional football is coming to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium with promotional pizazz and retro style.
Following the start of its second season last weekend, the USFL will open regular season games in Canton on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Village for the first time. The New Jersey Generals and Pittsburgh Maulers square off at 1 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. game between the Michigan Panthers and Philadelphia Stars.
Unlike last season, when ties between the original USFL and the newer version weren’t visibly promoted, the spring football league has changed course.
USFL television promos now feature glimpses of players of the 1980s who went on to become NFL legends. And USFL alum and former Cleveland Browns defensive back Frank Minnifield will be part of Sunday’s opener when he performs the coin toss and signs autographs in the concourse.
Charlie Grandjean, a North Canton resident who played in the original USFL, said he plans to attend some games in Canton.
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“It should be a lot of fun,” said Grandjean, a former star Hoover High School athlete in the 1970s who played for the Birmingham Stallions in 1983 and once tackled New Jersey Generals star running back Herschel Walker. “I am very happy the league is going strong.”
The USFL also will be celebrating Sunday with a kick-off block party at Play-Action Plaza, which is part of the Hall of Fame Village, an entertainment campus and development built around both Tom Benson Stadium and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Festivities will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m., including live music, drink specials and food trucks. The new Red Zone Ferris wheel-style ride is expected to be open, as well as the Forward Pass zip line. Mascots also should be on hand. Giveaways and games will take place.
And that is only the beginning. Eleven games will be played in Canton over the course of six weekends this spring. Tom Benson Stadium also will host a divisional playoff game and then the league championship.
That’s a lot of professional football. And there’s plenty to look forward to: Affordable tickets, game promotions, televised games and the amenities of the Hall of Fame Village.
Jim Houck, public relations director with the USFL’s marketing firm, said the league “is the best value in professional sports with exciting football, a fun atmosphere and fan-friendly affordability.”
Here’s what you need to know about the USFL playing regular season games in Canton, which is one of four host sites. Tom Benson serves as the home stadium for both the Generals and Maulers.
1. USFL tickets start at $10 per game and $30 for the season
Tickets, $10 for corner seats, $25 for sideline seats and $40 for midfield, are available online at https://www.theusfl.com/ticket-hub and https://www.hofvillage.com/p/play/usfl.
Season ticket packages, which include all 11 regular-season games in Canton in 2023, start at $30. Tickets for club seats with all-you-can-eat-and-drink privileges range from $60 to $85 per game, said Houck.
Tickets also can be purchased at the Hall of Fame Village’s box office at the Center for Performance, 2626 Fulton Drive NW, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday (closed on Memorial Day).
For questions, call the box office at 330-591-4954.
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2. Parking for USFL games costs $15
Several parking lots at the Hall of Fame Village site are available for $15 per spot (cash only).
Game attendees can park in designated lots, including those named Unity, Honor, Respect and Courage.
3. Stadium gates open one hour before game time
For Sunday’s twin openers, fans can enter the stadium at noon for the early game and 6 p.m. for the second one.
Tailgating in Hall of Fame Village parking lots is prohibited, however.
4. Promotions include bobbleheads, T-shirts, thundersticks
T-shirts will be given to the first 2,000 fans at the 1 p.m. game Sunday. Rally towels also will be given to the first 4,000 fans at the 1 p.m. game and to the first 2,000 fans at the 7 p.m. game.
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Each game, 500 pairs of inflated, sound-amplifying thundersticks will be given to young fans upon entry while supplies last.
A special deal admits fans to two games for one ticket in Canton − the 3 p.m. game on May 7 between the New Orleans Breakers and Generals and the 6:30 p.m. game on May 7 between the Birmingham Stallions and Maulers.
USFL T-shirts will be given to the first 2,000 fans at the Breakers and Generals game. Rally towels will be given to the first 500 fans entering the Stallions and Maulers game.
On May 28, when the Generals face the Panthers, it will be “Hats off to Heroes” in honor of members of the military, first responders and doctors and nurses.
USFL hats will be given to the first 2,000 fans.
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June 4 is Ohio Legends and kids day, with an autograph card/team photo given to the first 2,000 fans.
June 10 features a Maulers bobblehead given to the first 2,000 fans. June 11 will be ’80s Night; retro sunglasses will be given to the first 2,000 fans.
At the regular season finale on June 17, the first 2,000 fans will receive a USFL Can Coozie.
5. USFL concessions include hot dogs, popcorn, Italian sausage, beer
Concessions at USFL games in Canton will include hot dogs, popcorn, pizza, chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, Italian sausage with peppers, pulled pork, nachos, peanuts, soft pretzels, candy, bottled water, soft drinks, seltzer, and bottled and draft beer.
6. USFL merch will be for sale
T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and other USFL, Maulers and Generals apparel will be sold in the stadium. A broader selection of items can also be ordered at https://shopusfl.com/.
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7. The Generals and Maulers will be playing on new turf
A new synthetic turf was installed at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
Supplied by ForeverLawn SportsGrass, the high-performance turf has been approved for use in both USFL and NFL games.
Earlier this year, all of the existing turf was removed; edges also were re-graded to accommodate the installation of the new playing surface and supporting products and materials.
“Updating our stadium turf with this high-quality product will not only provide a better playing surface for our athletes, but it will also give us the ability to host a wider range of sporting events,” Mike Levy, the Hall of Fame Village’s president of operations, said in a prepared statement.
8. Fun things are happening in the east end zone
A fan fest entertainment section in the east end zone area of the stadium will be active before and during each game.
The fan fest area will feature inflatables, including an oversized cornhole game, a giant couch, games, giveaways and other kid-friendly activities, Houck said.
Both the Generals and Maulers will have mascots, cheerleaders and a dance/hype team. They’ll also be making appearances throughout the stadium and within the community during the season.
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9. USFL games will be televised
The USFL has partnered with Fox Sports and NBC to broadcast all 43 of the league’s games on their networks, including 25 between Fox and FS1, and 18 across NBC/Peacock and USA Network/Peacock. Sunday’s Canton opener between Pittsburgh and New Jersey will be shown on NBC with announcers Jac Collinsworth, Michael Robinson and Corey Robinson.
Sunday night’s game in Canton will be broadcast on FS1.
10. Lots to do before and after games
Amenities of the Hall of Fame Village will be available before and after games when operating hours sync with game days, Houck said.
One of the newest attractions is Don Shula’s American Kitchen, a casual upscale restaurant serving steaks, fish, salads and sandwiches, with a bar, sports memorabilia and televisions. Specialty cocktails include one named after Shula’s perfect season as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
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Play-Action Plaza features the Red Zone Ferris wheel-style ride, which is 125 feet high and has 20 gondolas, as well as the Forward Pass zip line.
The Brew Kettle, a craft brewery and eatery, is scheduled to open at the Hall of Fame Village during the season. A BetRivers retail sports wagering site is also expected to open in the future.
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