- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - City officials are backing a proposal to transform the former College Football Hall of Fame museum in downtown South Bend into a new culinary education center for Ivy Tech Community College.

Under the Culinary Center Coalition’s plan, the museum would undergo a $6 million remodeling to include bakeries and kitchens, along with areas where students could test and practice methods of urban agriculture.

The city’s Redevelopment Commission is scheduled on Thursday to consider taking the building off the market for six months so that Ivy Tech officials can review the plans and pursue funding options.

Moving to the Hall of Fame building would raise the profile of Ivy Tech’s culinary program and enable enrollment to double to about 450 students, said Thomas Coley, the college’s regional chancellor.


“We think it would be a major draw and bring activity downtown,” he told the South Bend Tribune. “It’s an opportunity to try to think big but do it in a very prudent and deliberate manner. We believe it could really be a difference maker in downtown South Bend.”

The building has been largely vacant since the museum closed at the end of 2012 as the Hall of Fame moved to Atlanta after 17 years in South Bend, following years of low attendance.

The museum’s outdoor plaza would be available for dining, live performances and other events.

“I’m really tired of calling it the Football Hall of Fame, because we see it as the new Hospitality and Culinary Center for Ivy Tech,” Culinary Center Coalition founder Donna Pfeil told WSBT-TV.

The city, which spent about $18 million for the museum’s construction, has listed it for sale at $2.8 million. Officials have rejected proposals for a casino, a museum focused on the environment, and a Bible museum and convention center.

Scott Ford, executive director of the city’s Department of Community Investment, said the Ivy Tech culinary program would boost the local and regional hospitality industry.

“Ivy Tech’s concept would help seed culinary entrepreneurship while also maintaining a vibrant atmosphere around this important downtown anchor,” Ford said.