Given the University of Georgia’s lopsided gridiron victory of seismic proportions last night, it seemed an appropriate time to check in on a sports-related development that’s aiming to set a new bar for events facilities northeast of metro Atlanta.

Almost a year after it broke ground, the $126 million Classic Center Arena project has begun vertical construction on N. Thomas Street near UGA’s North Campus and other landmarks, including the Athens Banner-Herald building and several downtown hotels.

Designed by Perkins + Will and Smallwood, the new arena aims to become a regional destination for 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 and has been described by project officials as nothing short of “Northeast Georgia’s premier event facility.”  

Construction progress on The Classic Center Arena project on N. Thomas Street as of this morning—a particularly glorious one in Athens. JE Dunn Construction/Classic Center

The venue will provide a new option for downtown concerts, conventions, tournaments, and other events, plus a larger arena for the University of Georgia Club Hockey team. (An ECHL hockey team has also signed on to call the arena home.) The project’s estimated cost is $126 million, with $33 million of that 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.

Courtesy of The Classic Center

The 192,000-square-foot project broke ground in February and is now expected to finish construction in February 2024, according to JE Dunn. It joins million-dollar condos and transformative mixed-use development as projects of significant scale in downtown Athens’ development pipeline right now. 

Classic City wonks can find an extended walk-through and project explainer here. For a more succinct preview, see the gallery above.


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