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New Gainesville/Hall ’96 Foundation board aims to restore lake venue

POSTED: July 12, 2013 11:50 p.m.

The Gainesville/Hall ’96 Foundation approved a new board of directors Friday to set the future course of the 1996 Lake Lanier Olympic Center.

Original members Jim Mathis and Steve Gilliam met with members of the Gainesville City Council; Hall County Board of Commissioners; the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce; Vision 2030, a chamber initiative; the Lake Lanier Rowing Club; and the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. They reviewed the revised bylaws, voted on a new board and set another meeting to decide on officer positions.

The nonprofit, known then as Gainesville/Hall County ’96 Roundtable, worked to bring Olympic events to the area for the 1996 Summer Olympics and then maintained the site’s legacy.

Newly elected board members include Gainesville Councilwoman Ruth Bruner; Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs; Mimi Collins with Vision 2030; Kit Dunlap, CEO of the chamber; and Kevin Seitz with the canoe and kayak club.

Nonvoting members include Melvin Cooper with Gainesville Parks & Recreation, Bill Donahue with Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority and Mike Little with Hall County Parks & Leisure.

“We’re so excited to have this new board because for so long the infrastructure has been deteriorating out at the venue,” Bruner said.

The group members voted in May, at its first meeting in years, to change the bylaws to reflect the venue’s change in direction and management. Gainesville and Hall County would play key roles in reviving the site by each contributing $150,000 a year to a budget the foundation’s board would manage. The clubs are also expected to pay into the budget.

The money is planned to go towards hiring a full-time facility manager to operate the site and making capital improvements.

The center at Clarks Bridge Park needs major renovations, including work on the maintenance building, boathouse and docks, officials have said. The cost to fix up the venue has been estimated between $1.2 million and $1.9 million.

Gibbs and Richard Mecum, board of commissioners chairman, said the money was in the budget, but it hasn’t been identified. Members speaking after the meeting discussed presenting both checks from the city and county at a September meeting.

“Now with funding from the city and the county, we can go forward with hiring a director for the venue to help fundraising, help schedule events out there, help better utilize the buildings,” Bruner said. “We need do some things like fix the air conditioning and heat and work on the structures out there. We just have a lot of work to do.”

The venue is currently leased to Gainesville and Hall County by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The two governments currently sublease it to the foundation, which subleases it to the Lake Lanier Rowing Club and the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. Previously the city and the county have rotated operating the venue, which mostly consisted of light maintenance and repairs. The clubs pay the utilities.

Under the new bylaws, the board will meet monthly instead of quarterly and have up to 15 members instead of 11, including representatives of the city, the county, the clubs, the chamber, Gainesville Tourism and Trade and Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau. Among nonvoting members are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, Gainesville Parks and Recreation and Hall County Parks and Leisure.

Mathis, board chairman and founder for nearly two decades, reflected on his tenure. In his departure, he takes with him friends, friendships and the memories of the community coming together during the games.

“It was wonderful to see our (volunteers) out there welcoming people to the South,” Mathis said. “The (NBC) commentator (Charlie Jones) pronounced us the ‘hospitality capital of the world’ and that was because we really turned on every bit of charm that we had.”

The next meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. Aug. 16 at the Greater Hall Chamber offices.


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