FRISCO, Tex. – Between a ceremonial box of dirt, delicately engraved shovels, hard hats with the FC Dallas and US Soccer logos plastered on them, and surrounded by soccer elites, ground officially broke on the construction of the National Soccer Hall of Fame Thursday.
While the construction has been noticeable since the start of the FC Dallas season at Toyota Stadium, the proposed completion date for the project, to be located at the stadium, is by the end of 2017.
“It’s been a labor of love and something I’ve been very passionate about,” FC Dallas president Dan Hunt told MLSsoccer.com. “Thank goodness for city of Frisco, [Frisco Independent School District], and for US Soccer to believe in what my brother and I proposed. They have a long-standing history with our family, but they could have gone to six or seven other sites that wanted the National Hall of Fame.”
The theme of the groundbreaking ceremony was progress. Hunt said he and US Soccer have been in talks about making the Hall of Fame induction a full-on event that takes the traditional ceremony a step further than what fans are used to.
“What was exciting for me was how US Soccer not only latched onto this concept, but took it a step further,” Hunt said. “[We’re] talking about maybe doing a concert over the induction weekend, so having a concert, the induction ceremony, and a Hall of Fame game.”
One quality of the new complex that will help advance Hunt’s vision is a 5,000-person amphitheater, something that can be used for other events, with Hunt even referencing the chase of tennis on grass in the style of Wimbledon, something he said would honor his late father Lamar.
The advantage of the building’s versatility, according to Hunt, is how various audiences will have the opportunity to experience and participate in the growth of soccer in America.
“If you look at the interest in Major League Soccer, if you look at the interest of the US National teams, especially the women’s side with their championships and the men’s side with the joy and euphoria from 2014, those were incredible sights across our country,” Hunt said. “So we have this opportunity to capture people’s attention when they’re here in the stadium and educate them, because it has a long history.”
But soccer will clearly still be the building’s centerpiece. Hunt said they have not decided the logistics of when Hall of Famers will be inducted each year, and that not all of the 80,000-plus items in storage will make the trip from North Carolina to Frisco.
Instead, the plan is to rotate items in and out of storage to correlate with specific exhibitions the museum will feature.
“Sometimes less is more, “ Hunt said. “We’re also going very heavy on the interactive. Having been in some halls of fame recently and museums, it’s the future – interactive devices for education. That’s how you grab people’s attention now. We live in a little bit of a different time, and I’m excited about the fresh start with that type of stuff. I think it’ll be a really unique dynamic.”
A unique element to the new facility is the fact that it will be the only Hall of Fame in the United States that is attached to an active stadium.
US national team legend Brandi Chastain, who was on site for the announcement of her induction into the 2016 Hall of Fame Class, which includes MLS Commissioner Don Garber, recalled playing in an older Brazilian stadium that housed that country's Hall of Fame in the bowels of the building. She said the feeling of playing in such close proximity to iconic treasures of the game was a feeling impossible to replicate.
“It was so cool to think that this is where the players have played, and where coaches have coached and where championships have been won,” Chastain said. “To put it in the stadium I think gives people something you can’t put your finger on, but you can feel it. That’s how soccer is to me. I can tell you all about it, but it’s the sense and feeling when I’m around it that makes it so special, and that’s what the building will give to first time fans. And to long time fans, it’ll be just as special to them as it is the first-timers.”
Ultimately, the goal for Hunt is to both preserve and expand the game which he believes America has embraced and is embracing even more.
“We have 1.9 million people a year come through Toyota Stadium and Toyota Soccer Center, and that’s a great audience to have come see soccer events,” Hunt said. “And it’s a wide variety of audience too because we have our concert business. So you have a lot of people being introduced to the game, and it’s got a really rich history here in America. And it’s only getting better.”