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Girtz updates Classic Center Arena delays, cites economic potential

From Georgia Updates

Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz has voiced concerns about rising costs and delays in the construction of The Classic Center Arena.

During a Dec. 1 press conference at the University of Georgia Girtz said he expects the arena to open in August 2024, nine months later than initially planned.

Ground was broken in November 2022 and a targeted completion date had been in November of this year. The project's cost is now projected at $150 million, with $34 million funded by SPLOST revenue.

Girtz also spoke about the arena's potential economic benefits for Athens. The project is anticipated to create 600 jobs and have an annual economic impact of $33 million. The Classic Center Arena, once finished, will be downtown Athens' largest venue, accommodating 8,500 people. Girtz expects the arena to draw shows from larger markets.

The area around the arena will see the development of a 1,200-space parking deck, new hotels, and retail and dining spaces, led by Mallory & Evans Development. Local business owners are hopeful that the arena will increase business and draw more visitors to downtown's east side.

The mayor compared The Classic Center Arena to the Enmarket Arena in Savannah. Both arenas are similar in size and were designed by Perkins&Will. The Classic Center Arena, like Enmarket, will host a minor league hockey team that has yet to be named. Both arenas will have the same concert partner, Oak View Group.

Despite the project's delays and cost increases, Girtz is optimistic about arena's potential benefits. He expects the arena to stimulate the local economy and enrich the city's cultural scene by attracting major shows and events.

The project's success hinges on its ability to open in August 2024.

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