The Classic Center Authority (CCA) and representatives from Smallwood Architects and Perkins and Will, the selected architects for the Classic Center Arena, in early April hosted the first of many public input sessions for the massive project that is aimed to transform a significant portion of downtown Athens.
The arena is expected to cost $83 million — $34 million from SPLOST and $49 million from private funding — and will have a fixed capacity of 5,500 (expandable to upwards of 7,000 for concerts and conventions.)
Along with the arena, hundreds of new parking spaces are expected to be built to support the venue as well as new condominiums, a municipal building, and future developments.
Classic Center arena is also expected to be the home of the future Georgia Music Collective (formerly known as the Georgia Music Hall of Fame) throughout the concourses. Representatives shared that they aim to utilize the large plazas and walkways to highlight the exhibit’s displays.
Absent from the previous version of the proposal is a hotel that would have topped the narrow bridged roadway between North Thomas Street and a new parking deck behind the proposed condominium. The project representatives stated that the local hotel community had requested the removal of the hotel component in exchange for a one cent hotel/motel tax increase. Although the CCA had accepted the local hotel community’s request, the proposal did not pass the Georgia General Assembly. Therefore, the project representatives shared that they are now actively searching for alternative income sources.
As the “River District” initiative from the early-mid 2000s largely failed, many attendees asked the architects to design the arena to better connect the downtown community to the river and provide large open plazas for those visiting the river area.
The representatives stated that construction is expected to commence by the end of 2021 and complete at some point in 2023. However, the commencement of construction will be dictated by the project team’s ability to finalize the external design for the arena. Representatives have shared that they will bring multiple design options to the next public engagement session.