A year and ½ after breaking ground, a downtown Athens project with ambitions of becoming a versatile, regional destination is about to reach a significant milestone.

Project officials tell Urbanize Atlanta a topping-out ceremony is scheduled the morning of Nov. 28 for the new Classic Center Arena, a $126-million coliseum described as nothing less than “Northeast Georgia’s premier event facility.” 

Throughout this year, the arena has taken shape on N. Thomas Street near UGA’s North Campus and other landmarks, including the Athens Banner-Herald building and several downtown hotels. Project heads have described it as an anchor for that part of Athens’ vibrant downtown.

Progress on upper-lever seating and roof infrastructure at the Classic Center Arena project last week. JE Dunn Construction

At the ceremony later this month, officials with the arena, a new creation of the Center for Racial Justice and Black Futures, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, and UGA’s club hockey team, Ice Hockey Dawgs, are scheduled to speak.

According to project reps, the arena is now on pace to open in summer 2024.

Designed by Perkins + Will and Smallwood, the arena will host music, sports, entertainment, and other events, with 5,500 permanent seats and the ability to host up to 8,500 people for in-the-round shows, or 9,000 for basketball. It’s being built by JE Dunn Construction, whose recent work in Atlanta includes Midtown’s Whistler building and Portman Holding’s 712 West Peachtree.

How the arena project will front an existing multimodal station next door, to the south. Courtesy of The Classic Center

Arena configuration for an end-stage concert, where capacity could reach 7,000. Courtesy of The Classic Center

The venue will provide a new option for downtown concerts, conventions, tournaments, and other events, plus a larger arena for the university’s hockey team. 

Of the project’s estimated $126 million cost, $33 million is being funded via SPLOST. It’ll join the multi-use Classic Center next door, a complex that includes a performing arts theater, conference center, and outdoor pavilion for weddings, concerts, and sports.

Project backers have predicted The Classic Center Arena will create 600 jobs and generate 90,000 more hotel room nights annually, with an overall impact of $30 million per year.

The Classic Center's 300 N. Thomas Street location in downtown Athens, a couple of blocks from University of Georgia's campus. Google Maps

The 192,000-square-foot project joins million-dollar condos (now under construction) and transformative mixed-use development as projects of significant scale in downtown Athens’ pipeline right now. 

Initial projections called for the arena to finish construction this month.

For a preview of this forthcoming Classic City landmark, see the gallery above.


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Athens news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)