ATLANTA — From her home in Smyrna, Ga., on Friday night, the College Football Hall of Fame’s new CEO watched in dismay the televised images of looters breaking into the downtown Atlanta attraction.
“Obviously I am very passionate about the Hall of Fame, it is a second home for me, so watching it I was afraid,” said Kimberly Beaudin, who has been with the Hall since shortly after it opened in 2014 and was promoted to CEO in April.
“I was afraid for all of us. I was afraid for the Hall and anxious to get down here and see for myself.”
By 7 a.m. Saturday, Beaudin was on-site inspecting the damage. She knew that the upstairs exhibits and artifacts were safe, but getting a close-up of the long expanse of shattered windows along Marietta Street and the ruined gift shop was jarring. “Seeing the aftermath and the damage, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
At the same time, she said, “We feel very fortunate. The extent of the damage is the retail store and glass breakage. There was no damage to the Hall itself or the exhibits or the artifacts. The things people were carrying out was just merchandise.”
The Hall is located near Centennial Park and the CNN Center, one of the hubs of protest in Atlanta over the death of 46-year-old George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. The 94,000-square-foot exhibit became a target for looters who broke through the Hall’s glass front and raided the gift shop. The most prized relics and interactive exhibits are kept on other floors and were untouched.
“I’m just glad everybody’s safe. We had security on staff here last night and I’m thankful everyone is safe,” Beaudin said.
Expecting a strong police and National Guard presence in the area, Beaudin said she was confident of the security of the building and its athletic treasures going forward into the weekend.
Asked if there was consideration given to moving any of the more valuable exhibits temporarily to another location, Beaudin said Saturday morning, “Right now everything is in place secured in their cases on the second and third floor. Anything on the lower level has been moved. We’re working through every scenario but right now the artifacts are still in their cases. We’re working to understand from the authorities what the level of protection will be and continue to make decisions as we learn more.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Hall of Fame has been closed since March 16. It had been considering plans to reopen in conjunction with other downtown attractions, but now all that has been put on hold.
Said Beaudin: “I definitely think there will be a level of delay, hopefully not an extensive one because we’re moving to start repairs as quickly as possible.
“(The reopening) was going to be sooner rather than later. … We’ll have to wait, and that’s OK.”