City DopeNews

Classic Center Asks for Downtown Tax District to Fund Arena

Classic Center Executive Director Paul Cramer has asked the Athens-Clarke County Commission to create a special tax district around the center’s new arena to help pay for its construction.

While Cramer had previously proposed a district covering all the hotels downtown, this district would only cover parcels that are being developed as part of the arena project. Those include the News Building’s parking lots and several parcels around the Multimodal Center. The new east downtown entertainment district is also expected to include a privately owned hotel, condos, loft apartments, retail space, a food hall and a parking deck. The ACC government is leasing land for those developments to help fund the arena. 

Only the “master developer,” not other downtown property owners, would pay the 2-mill levy, which would bring in $539,000 a year on an estimated $360 million worth of new development. Similar tax districts helped fund the Atlanta Beltline, Truist Park and the Georgia Dome. “We think this is a very good mechanism to help us finish the arena,” ACC Attorney Judd Drake said at a May 9 work session.

Cramer has repeatedly had to find additional funding to supplement $34 million in local sales tax revenue as construction costs have spiked in recent years. The arena is now short $11 million, Cramer said, including $7 million needed to remove rock on the site. That brings the total cost to $146 million. Other potential revenue sources include leasing the last 0.8-acre parcel near the arena, premium seating and naming rights, he said.

The arena is currently under construction and is scheduled to open next spring.

Commissioners were also briefed on a residential mental health facility planned for Mitchell Bridge Road, next door to Advantage Behavioral Health System’s current facility, a former hospital that ABHS purchased from the Clarke County School District in 2016. It will include 60 one- and two bedroom units, funded with $5.3 million from SPLOST 2020, the voter-approved 1% sales tax, as well as $4 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. The project will be built in phases because the initial budget was $11.4 million five years ago, SPLOST Program Administrator Keith Sanders said, and construction costs have risen dramatically since then.