Canton museums hope to attract football crowd

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CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- Five museums in the northeastern Ohio city of Canton are working to attract more visitors by banking on the popularity of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and creating a new marketing campaign.

Their plan is to have a trolley take locals and tourists along a 4.5-mile loop that has stops at all five museums and includes discounted rates.

They are the Canton Classic Car Museum, First Ladies' National Library, McKinley Presidential Library and Museum, the Hall of Fame, and Canton Museum of Art.

The Canton Repository reports (http://bit.ly/ZsyyII) that the museums have formed a partnership and are working together on creating the Canton Loop, along with a slogan telling visitors to "Do the Loop."

Within 10 years, they hope to attract 150,000 more tourists every year.

"Why not see everything that is here, or at least part of what is here?" said Char Lautzenheiser, director of the Canton Classic Car Museum. "On a smaller scale, we want to offer what bigger cities can with the same flavor."

Lautzenheiser said many people go to Canton to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but often don't realize there are other attractions worth seeing.

Convincing them to make another stop could be especially helpful for the smaller museums that don't have large marketing budgets, she said.

Museum staffs began hatching the plan after a major art exhibit drew 100,000 visitors and generated $6 million for the local economy.

They've been meeting for about a year on creating the Canton Loop, said Robb Hankins, CEO of ArtsinStark arts foundation.

"Some people go to the McKinley museum and don't know there is a Classic Car Museum; some go to the Hall of Fame and don't know there is a First Ladies' Library," he said. "There has been some collaboration, but all five have never done something like this before. When you stop to think about it, it's amazing that Canton has five museums of this caliber."

Judi Christy, the marketing director for ArtsinStark, said many ideas are still on the table, including structuring ticket prices so that the more places a visitor goes, the cheaper it is, and a way for people to go to museums over the course of two or more days.

Christy, who organized a trial run of the Canton Loop in October, said one thing that was lacking was word-of-mouth.

She said she hopes a similar trial run on May 11 draws more visitors.

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Information from: The Repository, http://www.cantonrep.com