CANTON — The loan that's expected to funnel up to $100 million into the billion-dollar Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village project remains in limbo as negotiations continue.
The Canton City School District Board of Education met Saturday morning to approve documents to facilitate a bridge loan Village developers are trying to secure. Board members postponed a vote, however, saying a new Village partner and lender requested more time to review the documents before they are finalized.
The school district is not loaning money to the Village and is not on the hook for repaying the loan. Because the district owns property in the Village, it needs to sign off on a certificate that offers protection to the lender and in part explains developers are current on their rent and the property isn't damaged.
Board of Education President John Rinaldi also took the opportunity Saturday morning to address rumors that McKinley High School will be moved, stressing "there is no active plan to move the high school."
"McKinley High School is there to stay until somebody comes in, and I say, we're in the best position possible," Rinaldi said, adding that the property the school sits on would come at a steep price.
The pending loan is expected to come through finance company Great American Capital Partners, which is housed in the same Los Angeles office building as Industrial Realty Group, a partner in the Village project.
School board documents, which have not been approved, say the loan will provide up to $100 million and will come with several conditions:
• A new governance structure is created for the Village (the project currently is a partnership between the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Industrial Realty Group)
• Provisions are made for paying construction obligations
• The school district signs off on documentation related to the lease that includes clarification about the district's usage rights pertaining to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
The documents also indicate the board only will agree to approve the paperwork needed to secure the loan if certain conditions are met, those being:
• Agreements are made with the school district regarding a football operations center for the district and other "unfulfilled obligations"
• The district's rights to the property have priority over rights of any Village companies
• Money from the loan or other funding sources will be used once the loan closes to pay contractors
• No security for the loan is attached to any school district property
The former football operations facility was demolished as part of the reconstruction of Benson Stadium, according to the documentation. The district is requesting plans for a permanent replacement facility be solidified by April 1 and temporary accommodations are in place by June. Blueprints shared with The Canton Repository show the new facility will be attached to the C.T. Branin Natatorium.
The paperwork considered Saturday by the board would require the guarantee of a revenue stream to pay Village contractors. As of Saturday morning, at least 18 companies were seeking at least $8.3 million in payment from developers for work they performed related to the second phase of Benson Stadium, according to documents filed with the Stark County Recorder's office.
Representatives of Hilscher-Clarke Electrical Contractors and Engineers, which is one of the companies that has filed mechanics' liens, have said they learned there was no money to pay contractors after receiving 60 percent of what they were owed in August.
A document that spelled out the financing plan for the stadium — obtained by the Repository through a public records request — showed the money mostly was coming from developer equity, the naming rights deal with Johnson Controls, other gifts, a loan and bonds. At that time, the stadium was estimated at $137 million, though developers since have said the cost rose to more than $150 million.
Minimal construction work has occurred on the Village campus since late 2017. An east end zone is expected to go up at the stadium, and the permanent scoreboard will be built into the planned 125,000 square-foot Center for Excellence, which has not broken ground. The anticipated four-star, $135 million Hall of Fame Hotel and parking garage broke ground nearly a year ago, but little visible progress has been made.
Saturday's meeting of the school board comes after a month of canceled Stark County Port Authority meetings that were called with the intention of approving the same documents. The vote never happened, however, because the documents remained in draft form.
Developers are leasing the property they need for the Village from the school district through the port authority. Terms of the 2015 cooperative agreement and 99-year lease include that developers will pay rent to the school district starting at a sum of $285,000 annually in 2018, public records show.
Alison Matas is a staff writer for The Canton Repository.