City DopeNews

Costs Rise but No New Taxes for Classic Center Arena

A potential design for an arena located behind the Classic Center near the Multimodal Center. Image courtesy of the Classic Center.

The collapse of a deal with student housing developer Landmark Properties to build a shared parking deck, as well as a spike in the cost of construction materials, have added about $25 million to the cost of a new arena at the Classic Center.

But the Classic Center has a plan to absorb the costs, Executive Director Paul Cramer said at a May 11 Athens-Clarke County Commission work session. Interest rates have fallen, so the Classic Center can refinance a loan for the project. Plans for a hotel have fallen through, but new revenue streams include a professional hockey team, a more favorable catering contract and a new state law requiring short-term rental homes to charge hotel/motel tax. 

“While costs have gone up, the most important thing I’m going to say to you tonight is that we’re not coming forward asking for more funding from SPLOST,” Cramer told commissioners. About a third of the approximately $105 million arena is being funded with sales taxes, with the rest coming from real estate deals, corporate sponsorships and future arena revenue.

During three recent community input sessions, major themes included pedestrian connections to the Multimodal Center, North Oconee River Greenway and Firefly Trail, solar panels and LEED-certified construction, incorporating the Georgia Music Hall of Fame collection currently housed at UGA and paying a living wage. The architecture will be based on the surrounding warehouse district, Cramer said. A vote on the project concept is scheduled for June 1.

According to studies, the 5,500-seat arena will host 55 sporting events, 15 conventions, 10 family shows, 20 community events and 25 concerts per year. This would generate a $33 million economic impact, $8.7 million in tax revenue and 90,000 room-nights for local hotels and 600 jobs.