Like a slapshot from the ether, backers of a $2-billion mega-development in Forsyth County have released results of an independent survey they say definitively proves locals want the National Hockey League in their backyard—and that they’re willing to pay for it.

A market research study conducted by Alexander Babbage, an Atlanta-based research firm, shows “overwhelming support” for bringing NHL games and The Gathering at South Forsyth project to one of Georgia’s fastest-growing counties, according to the development team.

Results of the survey were released less than a week after a second campaign for a pro hockey-anchored mega-project in the northern suburbs—a potential redo of moribund North Point Mall, about six miles south of Forsyth County’s site—was announced, triggering a competition for a potential NHL expansion franchise that might not come to pass.

The Forsyth polling was conducted from March 8 to 10 at two popular local gathering places: Cumming City Center and NOFO Brewing.

The research team aimed to quiz 500 (presumably sober) locals on the prospects of luring the NHL to Forsyth County and outlaying an investment on par with Cobb County’s The Battery Atlanta to make that happen.

According to Frank Ferrara, the senior project executive with The Gathering’s spearheads, Krause Sports and Entertainment, nearly 550 individuals gave their 2 cents, with the majority of them (347 people) being registered Forsyth County voters.

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

According to The Gathering’s backers, key findings showed that 78 percent of registered voters in the county support an investment comparable The Battery, with 10 percent expressing uncertainty.

Meanwhile, among Forsyth County registered voters, 63 percent—or an “overwhelming majority”—showed strong interest in bringing the NHL back to Georgia in Forsyth. Overall, a supermajority 82 percent of all respondents said they were moderately to extremely enthusiastic about the prospects of NHL contests on Forsyth ice, according to the Krause team.

Vernon Krause, the group’s president and CEO, said in an announcement the results “affirm the tremendous interest, support, and enthusiasm” among county residents for the potential 80-acre mixed-use district unveiled last year. Beyond a 70,000-square-foot arena, The Gathering could 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.

All of that would take a monumental public investment of $390 million to make happen, should the NHL decide to expand, project backers announced last month. The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners has approved an agreement on principal terms to allow Krause Sports and Entertainment to proceed with four-phase development plans alongside Ga. Highway 400, but no public funding would be allotted unless the NHL will indeed play at the proposed arena, the project’s anchor. 

As plans stand now, the Gathering would be built in four phases and finished in 2033, per developer projections.

A few miles south on Ga. Highway 400, the competing Alpharetta proposal is being put together by a conglomerate called Alpharetta Sports & Entertainment Group comprised of city officials, influential sports figures, and the mall’s owner, New York Life.

So far, that big idea is short on details, apart from the fact the arena at the heart of the proposal would be designed by architecture legend Frank Gehry, marking the Pritzker Prize winner’s first work in Georgia, per the Alpharetta team. More details are reportedly forthcoming this spring.

Atlanta’s NHL drought has stretched well beyond a decade now, but the league has made no indication it will definitely expand, or that any team will move. 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 million and ½ people since then, making it the second largest U.S. market without a pro hockey team right now, following only Houston.


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