City DopeNews

Commissioners Look Closely at Classic Center Arena Agreement

The Classic Center is asking the ACC Commission to consider a 50-page intergovernmental agreement this month covering everything related to the planned downtown arena to be built as part of SPLOST 2020. In addition to the arena itself, the agreement also includes provisions for a new hotel between the Classic Center and One Press Place, and for a senior living center down the hill on East Broad Street. 

Commissioners had some concerns about this long and complex agreement at their Jan. 20 agenda-setting meeting. Commissioner Allison Wright noted that the Classic Center was requesting an exemption from the ACC sign ordinance, which limits the size of allowable signage, for the arena’s marquee sign. She said she will likely make a slight change to this provision before voting to accept the agreement in February. In fact, there might be a number of changes to the document before finalization. Commissioner Melissa Link even requested a paper copy so she could examine every line “with a fine-toothed comb.” Link was particularly interested in maintaining long-term control over the Classic Center’s lease (the current version of the agreement would lengthen the lease for another 50 years). Link also asked if some affordable units could be included as part of the planned senior living center.

This agreement comes as the commission is planning to issue roughly $32 million in bonds to get the three biggest SPLOST 2020 projects started before April, when the new pennies start rolling in. With interest rates at historic lows, there is incentive to begin these projects, which include the new courthouse and consolidated local government office building, the Bethel Midtown Village redevelopment (aka “the North Athens Project”) and the arena. However, this makes it all the more important for commissioners and the Classic Center Authority to hammer out this agreement in a relatively short time frame. It’s currently scheduled for a vote on Feb. 4.