At a specially called meeting Tuesday evening, the $2-billion Gathering at South Forsyth megaproject may have scored the county’s official approval, but the outcome wasn’t exactly what the development team had been aiming for. 

The result is that Krause Sports and Entertainment won’t be able to take the financial package and development plans to the National Hockey League they’d hope to—at least not yet. That’s if the development team decides to still pursue the project at all.

Car dealership magnate Vernon Krause, the project’s owner and head of Krause Sports and Entertainment, said last-minute actions Tuesday by the Forsyth County Commission left him “frankly shocked and extremely disappointed” following months of negotiations with the county, a year and ½ after he bought property near Forsyth’s southern border to build the sprawling, mixed-use district anchored by an arena.

It’s the latest twist in the competition to bring NHL hockey back to metro Atlanta, with Alpharetta also now vying for a franchise to anchor redevelopment of North Point Mall, should the NHL elect to award a team.

The future location of pregame (or it is pre-match) hoopla? The Gathering at South Forsyth; designs, SCI Architects

Four of five commissioners voted in favor of Krause’s The Gathering at South Forsyth to proceed as a public-private partnership as previously planned, meaning the county could contribute up to $250 million in tax assistance to the project—but only if an NHL franchise is attached. [CORRECTION: 12:17 a.m., March 28: Project officials relay the requested amount of financial assistance from county coffers has been lowered from $390 million, as both parties had previously agreed upon.]

But according to Krause, commissioners also made 11th hour changes to a Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties that complicate matters. 

[UPDATE 1: 3:20 p.m. A Krause Sports and Entertainment rep sends the following regarding sticking points: "Part of the issue was the county’s negotiating team and The Gathering team had an MOU ironed out on Friday. The negotiating team was empowered by the commissioners to make decisions on their behalf. A second town hall was held [this] past Saturday to essentially discuss the plan and answer public questions. Then last night, without warning, the commissioners chose to make MOU changes—phasing and concurrency edits—which were previously not discussed or agreed to, and The Gathering team was not given an opportunity to address before the commissioners voted."]

Instead of leaving Tuesday’s proceedings with a firm financial commitment from the county and approved development plans, Krause’s team says more negotiations and attorney review will be required to determine if they want to continue pursuing The Gathering or walk away.

The approved MOU does not meet Krause’s goals for approaching the NHL to “pursue and secure” a pro hockey team, he said in an announcement.  

“My team and I will review the changes to see if we can work toward finalization or end our efforts,” Krause said in a prepared statement today. “The goal continues to be to strike a deal that is beneficial to the county, its residents—of which I am one—and [the development team], and present a solid plan to the NHL for consideration as they ponder possible expansion.

“However,” he added, “the county cannot keep moving the goal line if that is to happen.”

Project backers noted that 17 residents spoke in support of The Gathering at Tuesday’s meeting for more than 30 minutes, while four others opposed.

Earlier this month, the development team released results of an independent survey they said proved a strong majority of Forsyth residents favor an investment comparable to The Battery Atlanta and the idea of NHL hockey coming to the north metro county.

“I would hate to disappoint these residents if we cannot get the commissioners to negotiate in good faith going forward,” Krause added.

The 4-1 commissioner vote does mean the agreement is binding between the county and would-be developers of the 80-acre site. Krause told Fox5 Atlanta he hopes to see an NHL team play its 2027 season at the new Forsyth County arena, noting that real estate taxes, and not direct public funding, would pay for it. 

[UPDATE 2: 12:20 a.m., March 28:  Forsyth County Manager David McKee released the following statement tonight in response to Krause's post-meeting comments: "The county has enjoyed working in partnership with Mr. Krause and his team on this project. We are very hopeful, as Mr. Krause and his team are as well, to make this vision for an entertainment hub and economic driver in Forsyth County a reality.

"Throughout the process and negotiations, county commissioners and staff have been striving to ensure the development and any subsequent county investment aligns with what is best for our residents, stakeholders, and the strategic vision for the county’s future. We feel confident that the agreement approved by the board last night accomplishes this, and we are hopeful to continue toward making the development a reality."]


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