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New Arena Pitched in Athens

NBA D-League

A new arena in Athens could serve several purposes, including a host facility for an NBA D-League team, according to a prominent backer. 

Paul Cramer, the executive director of the Classic Center, is pitching a concept for a new arena in downtown Athens. Located off of Foundry Street, the venue would follow some design trends in arenas of all sizes. A glass exterior would open up views to the surrounding area, while a capacity in the range of 6,000 to 8,000 could position it to host the D-League and other indoor events.

At this point, Athens is considering a handful of concepts for downtown development, including a separate proposal for an amphitheater that uses the same location as Cramer’s arena concept. The issue at this point, however, is funding. More from Flagpole Magazine:

The next round of SPLOST coming up in a couple of years seems like a likely candidate. But when Cramer asked for $25 million in SPLOST funding to add onto the grand hall in 2010, he was met with forceful opposition from folks who did not want to wall off the area east of Thomas Street from the rest of downtown.

Cramer acknowledges that an arena might be a tough sell. “People fought and said no [to the expansion], but look at the end result of it”—65,000 room-nights from new and larger conventions and 600 new hotel rooms under development, he said.

“If you look at the number of people employed in hospitality, that’s something I’m very proud of,” Cramer said. (The entertainment industry, hotels and restaurants employ almost 10,000 people locally, according to the Census Bureau.) “We’re a town of haves and have-nots, and the have-nots are going to be employed in hospitality before anywhere else.”

An analysis by UGA College of Environment and Design students found that the arena could host more than 100 events per year, bringing in $8.5 million in revenue annually, with a $64 million economic impact. High-school hoops stars would love to show off their talents in UGA’s backyard, and people would come from hundreds of miles around to see major acts that currently don’t have anywhere to play in Athens, Cramer said.

“Forever we’ve been known as this music city, but wouldn’t it be great if we could get some of those bigger acts, bigger talent in?” he said.

A report from Online Athens in July indicated Cramer was proposing the arena as an alternative to the smaller amphitheater. However, a source quoted in Flagpole’s story indicates that, with both projects in the early phases of discussion, each could ultimately be carried out.

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