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Leaders look at options for Olympic venue

City, county seek upgrade to site of ’96 Olympic events

POSTED: November 15, 2012 11:59 p.m.

The future of the Lake Lanier Olympic venue is on the table as talks between area leaders start to mature.

In September, the Gainesville City Council broached the topic of looking into a revitalization of the facilities that played host to the 1996 Olympic Games rowing and canoe-kayak events.

Those discussions have spread with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce joining in, but no concrete plan has been laid out.

“We’re having conversations with the city,” said Kit Dunlap, chamber president. “We want to have conversations with the county. We’ve had conversations with lots of individuals. The idea is to see if we can’t get some short-term solutions to get the venue back up to speed and then look at long-term plans.”

Currently, the facility’s maintenance — general landscaping and “minor improvements” — is being split between Hall County and Gainesville. The city has talked about taking over those duties.

But leaders want to see the site thriving and acting as another economic catalyst in the area.

“We need to move on and do something,” Councilman Bob Hamrick said. “No. 1, this is the site of the 1996 rowing venue, which is a significant place. Obviously we have had numerous teams come and practice since the Olympics. It’s been a very active destination for rowing events, which would be sort of an economic stimulus for our city and county.”

The city has met with Vision 2030, a branch of the chamber that lays out future goals, but talks of what to do with the venue are only in the beginning stages.

“From a Visions 2030 standpoint, the facility is a priority for us,” said Meg Nivens, executive director of Vision 2030.

“It comes down to money. The capital improvements that are needed right now, how do we access money to get it to where we need to be? With the city of Gainesville and Hall County, that’s not something that either one of their budgets is allowing for right now. So how do we create a solution? So that’s something that hopefully we’ll be able to do.”

Dunlap said talks have included the possibility of establishing a board and a director to facilitate the venue’s future and usage, along with who will front the renovations and upkeep.

“It’s all up in the air,” she said. “None of it has been determined. We don’t have the firm goals except for some conversations right now.”

But, she said, it’s something that a number of people, including the chamber, is interested in seeing come together.

“It’s going to keep going down unless some resources are poured into it and we’re not going to be able to attract these national and international competitions like we would want to,” said Dunlap. “I think everybody wants it to stay and be there because it’s a wonderful resource.”


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