A post-Thanksgiving visit to the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta brought a surprise: I had the impression the hall was closer to the World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium and Center for Civil and Human Rights.
The Hall of Fame, with its football-shaped facade, is on Marietta Street on the other side of Centennial Olympic Park. a good distance from the other attractions. The hall's only a block or two away from the former Atlanta Journal-Constitution Building, where I toiled for 26 years.
Heading to the hall, I was impressed at how vibrant the area has become, with hotels, restaurants and perhaps apartments. During my newspaper days, that part of Marietta Street was a forbidding wasteland of warehouse and abandoned storefronts. Aside from lunch runs for fine Cajun food at the Sombre Reptile farther down Marietta, I rarely ventured into the area.
Two LSU Tigers and a Florida Gator, we enjoyed the hall and how it presented the histories of our respective teams. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by rows of helmets from every school that plays football. A team's helmet lights up when a fan swipes his or her ticket upon a computer screen.
The hall was fine, with a number of interesting exhibits, although the high-tech interactive features didn't entice me as much as the low-tech ones such as the plaques that list the annual inductees, beginning in 1951.
The Ivy League held prevalence in the early years, along with a few stars from Big 10 programs like Michigan and a smattering from Southern and Western schools. In about 1965, the focus shifts from schools like Yale, Harvard and Princeton, which dominated the game's early years, to the South, Southwest and West.
I also liked a massive mural of the game's history, and a wall filled with AJC cartoonist Mike Luckovich's portraits of famous coaches, along with a signature quote from each one.
High-tech features such as the virtual stadium, which requires the wearing of a virtual reality viewer, appeals more to football-crazy 10-year-old boys, and girls, I suppose. We were also put off by the over- commercialization of some exhibits. On the bottom floor, kids and adults can test their ability throwing passes and kicking field goals and extra points.
Outside, we were amazed by the soaring structure of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which towers over the forlorn Georgia Dome, soon to be demolished. Staring at the new stadium's sun-streaked beams, I imagined myself a member of an ancient civilization watching the Pyramids or the Parthenon go up.
Along with Arthur Blank's football palace, the Hawks will redo Philips Arena, all with a hefty public expenditure. With the museums and Centennial Olympic Park, downtown Atlanta appears on the upswing. Nearby, a company seeks to redevelop the moribund Underground Atlanta, and other projects are rumored.
Alas, the Braves, with a gusher of money from Cobb County, decided to decamp for the suburbs, along with the AJC.