July 27 (UPI) -- Pigskin patriarchs placed in the halls of Canton don't want to be just "old things under glass."
Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker said as much recently in an interview with UPI.
The message is being excavated from the soil of the small Northeast Ohio city in the form of the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village. The $700 million project is being billed as the first-ever sports and entertainment "Smart City."
While it includes a Hall of Fame Hotel, retail, restaurants and the "World's Greatest Sports Bar," one of the most significant features will be the Player Care Center.
The center features a wide range of health services and includes Legends Landing, a football themed 143-bed independent living, assisted living and memory care active senior care facility. Legends Landing will be home for retired Hall of Famers and other members of the league's Legends Community, including coaches, officials and administrators. The current design for the center includes a 15-bed surgical hospital, 20-bed behavioral science and addiction center, and a possible memorial. It's slated to open in 2020.
"It's not your basic assisted living facility, we kind of think of it more as an assisted living sports bar," Baker said.
"This is an opportunity to honor those guys who built the league and, contrary to what is perceived in the newspaper of guys dying early, what I've experienced at the Hall is our guys are living longer, so we need to take care of them longer, both health wise, emotionally and mentally."
A new report this week unearthed that 99 percent of former NFL players who donated their brains to science were found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The NFL immediately issued a statement in regards to the findings, from the Boston University School of Medicine's CTE Center.
People who have CTE have issues with memory and thinking, mood disorders and experience behavioral problems. Dr. Daniel Daneshvar, the study's co-author, said those with the disorder can also experience lack of impulse control, aggression, depression, impaired judgment, paranoia, confusion and progressive dementia.
"We appreciate the work done by Dr. [Ann] McKee and her colleagues for the value it adds in the ongoing quest for a better understanding of CTE," the NFL statement said. "Case studies such as those compiled in this updated paper are important to further advancing the science and progress related to head trauma. The medical and scientific communities will benefit from this publication and the NFL will continue to work with a wide range of experts to improve the health of current and former NFL athletes. As noted by the authors, there are still many unanswered questions relating to the cause, incidence and prevalence of long-term effects of head trauma such as CTE. The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries."
"In 2016, the NFL pledged $100 million in support for independent medical research and engineering advancements in neuroscience related topics. This is in addition to the $100 million that the NFL and its partners are already spending on medical and neuroscience research."
According to Baker, the Hall of Fame preaches five core values, including: commitment, integrity, courage, respect and excellence. The pursuit of excellence includes caring for former and current players.
"The last thing is its this message of excellence, so our creed is kind of that we protect the game by making it safer," Baker said. "The necessary health protocols, equipment, or rules. We grow the game by focusing on its values. We call that the 'Church of Football.'"
According to Baker, more than 200 million people have played football and there have been five million college football players. Baker said about 29,000 individuals have participated in the NFL as a coach, official or player. According to the NCAA, only 1.5 percent of college football players make it into the NFL each year.
There are 310 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seven more busts will be added on Aug. 5. There are 175 living members of the Hall.
"Our vision is that it's not really about the past, it's not just old things under glass," Baker said. "It's about taking the values they represent and driving them into that next generation. It's not just about the past; it's about the future. It's not just about Canton. It's about the world."
Pro Football Hall of Fame members are busy providing that global presence.
Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Roger Staubach and 15 other Hall of Famers went to Israel in June and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Eight more Hall of Famers met with Pope Francis in front of a private audience last month at the Vatican. President Donald Trump visited the Hall in September.
Baker had two sons play college football. His son Sam Baker played seven NFL seasons at tackle for the Atlanta Falcons. Baker served as the commissioner of the Arena Football League for 12 years and was the Mayor of Irvine, Calif. He also worked as a partner in Union Village, LLC, the largest healthcare project in the United States. Union Village was billed as the first integrated Health Village in the world.
"I would say what drove me the most is that my mom and dad couldn't read or write," Baker said. "I actually got a basketball scholarship...I was kind of raised on sports. I was raised by coaches. I really feel that the values of the game have a huge contribution to our country."
The NFL turns 100-years-old in 2020. Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village also includes: the Hall of Fame Museum, Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the National Youth Football and Sports Complex, its Hall of Fame Promenade, the Center For Excellence, a Performance Center and the Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Experience.
"My job, our job at the Hall of Fame, is to really honor these guys who built this league," Baker said. "I think this Player Care Center can do a lot to help these guys. There is also an integrative pharmacology area here. So I think there is a lot we can do to care for guys, and care for their wives and help build this thing."
"I think, for the most part, from what we've seen, the game is safer than it has ever been. As evidence I had two boys play this game in college. I think it's something that comes from a multiple of different directions. It's going to be changing rules, a lot of which I think has happened. It's going to be health protocols...Have to change and grow. It wasn't that long ago when if you had a concussion, somebody of note that had a medical degree and thought you had cobwebs in your head, would give you smelling salts."