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A groundbreaking ceremony took place on April 28 at the site of the new Classic Center Arena in Athens, at 300 N Thomas St., which is slated to open in November 2023.
“I am so excited that together we are breaking ground on a project that will drive millions in economic impact in Clarke County,” Paul Cramer, president/CEO of The Classic Center, said in a press release. “This project will create over 600 new jobs, link downtown Athens to the Oconee River, and will provide an estimated $33 million in annual economic impact.”
Speakers at the ceremonial groundbreaking included Ryan Brinson, Chair of The Classic Center Authority Board; Kelly Girtz, Mayor of Athens-Clarke County; Houston Gaines, Georgia House Representative; Senator Bill Cowsert; Toby Graham, University of Georgia Librarian and Associate Provost; Mark Jaronski, Deputy Commissioner of Explore Georgia; Paul Cramer, President/CEO of The Classic Center; Fred Tull, Senior Project Manager of JE Dunn; Don Dethlefs, Principal Architect at Perkins & Will; Philip Bettendorf, Chair of Elevate Campaign; Danny Bryant, The Classic Center Arena General Manager; and Sims Hinds, Senior Vice President of Development at Oak View Group.
Once complete, The Classic Center Arena will have 5,500 permanent seats with the capacity to hold up to 8,500 people along with the ability to transform for any occasion from concerts and sports tournaments to banquets and general sessions.
“Built into the fabric of downtown Athens, The Classic Center Arena will echo the energy of the college town with its rich music history, outstanding clubs, restaurants, and breweries, along with walkable access to hotels,” according to the release.
The arena will be home to The UGA Ice Dawgs, an ECHL team, and used as a learning lab. The Georgia Music Hall will also open in The Classic Center, bringing the state’s collection of memorabilia to life in The Classic Center Arena through an interactive, museum-quality experience.
“For the past 25 years, The Classic Center’s mission has been to enhance the quality of life in Athens-Clarke County by serving as the cultural, civic, and social center of the Southeast and by generating maximum economic impact,” according to the release. “The new LEED-certified arena will continue The Classic Center’s mission along with generating more jobs for the Athens area while focusing on sustainability and green energy.”