For the first time since the mega-proposal was unveiled in April, the team behind the potentially $2-billion Gathering at South Forsyth project made clear Wednesday they’re gunning to bring the National Hockey League back to Georgia—and that it’s going to take a monumental public investment to make that happen, should the league decide to expand.

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement on principal terms and authorization to continue during a specially called meeting Wednesday that green-lights developer Krause Sports and Entertainment to move forward with what’s envisioned as the Stanley Cup of mixed-use entertainment districts in the northern suburbs.

Led by car dealership mogul Vernon Krause, the development group is asking for $390 million in taxpayer assistance—down from $500 million, the starting point negotiated behind closed doors beginning last year—with the stipulation the Gathering would indeed land an NHL franchise for one of Georgia’s most rapidly growing and wealthiest counties. As plans stand now, the Gathering would be built in four phases and finished in 2033, per developer projections, as the AJC reports.

The Gathering at South Forsyth; designs, SCI Architects

Krause, a longtime Forsyth resident, called the 4-1 nod from commissioners “a giant step forward to bring this vision and dream to life for this community,” though the NHL is not currently working to expand its league beyond the current 32 teams.

“[We] are committed to creating a gathering place that will cater to diverse interests and provide an unparalleled world-class experience for all,” Krause said in a prepared statement provided to Urbanize Atlanta. “The prospect of bringing the National Hockey League back to Georgia adds another layer of excitement to this venture, and we are eager to pursue that potential.”

The deal goes that Forsyth’s public investment wouldn’t commence until the NHL decides to award an expansion team to metro Atlanta. As bait, Krause and company have drawn up plans for a 700,000-square-foot arena with seating capacity slightly larger than State Farm Arena’s 16,888.

With the public-private agreement on principal in place, Krause Sports and Entertainment officials say work on more detailed and definitive documents will kick off immediately, to include meetings with community members and key stakeholders.

Some county officials are singing the partnership’s praises.

David McKee, Forsyth County Manager, said in a Wednesday evening announcement the Gathering project has potential to “redefine the landscape of entertainment and sports in the region” and become a “cultural and economic epicenter." Added Laura Semanson, Forsyth County District 4 Commissioner: “[The proposal] aligns perfectly with our vision for a dynamic and thriving community, and we believe this development will elevate our local economy and also position Forsyth County as a prime destination for sports and entertainment enthusiasts and businesses looking to locate in the region."

According to the development team’s most recent numbers, the rest of the 80-acre mixed-use district would see a whopping 1,800 multifamily units, 150 standalone homes, and 1.6 million square feet of buildings devoted to retail, office, and hotel uses. Public perks would include a 15,000-square-foot building that houses a Forsyth County Fire Department station and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office precinct, while a 1.2-mile addition to the area’s Big Creek Greenway trail system would be built elsewhere.

Krause also specified this week his group wants to build a community ice center—for hockey and skating—at a location that hasn’t been determined.

The Gathering at South Forsyth; designs, Nelson

That would all take shape along Ga. Highway 400, where Ronald Reagan Boulevard meets Union Hill Road. The site—located just south of Halcyon, about 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta—was originally rezoned for a regional mall development 15 years ago that didn’t take off. Should Krause’s vision materialize, the Gathering would qualify as one of the largest private developments in suburban Atlanta history.

For metro Atlanta pro hockey proponents, some positive, potential overtures came to light in the final months of 2023. According to NHL news source Hockey Feed, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly stated during a media tour he believes an expansion team in Atlanta “would yield better results than two previous failed expansion teams in the market.”

The city’s Flames relocated to Calgary in 1980, and following a dozen years in downtown Atlanta, the Thrashers decamped to Winnipeg in 2011.

Metro Atlanta’s population has swollen by another 1.4 million people since the Thrashers flapped off to Canada, making it the second largest U.S. market without a pro hockey team right now, following only Houston.

But is Forsyth County—at this potential price for taxpayers—the right place for another shot at NHL success? 

How the 100-acre project would be positioned where Ronald Reagan Boulevard meets Union Hill Road along Ga. Highway 400.The Gathering at South Forsyth; designs, Nelson


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