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Lanier Olympic Venue aims to recapture legacy

POSTED: April 3, 2014 11:54 p.m.

The Lake Lanier Olympic Venue fell into some disrepair in recent years, but the nonprofit Gainesville-Hall ’96 Foundation is working to revive the legacy of the venue that hosted kayaking and rowing events during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. 

The nonprofit has asked the city of Gainesville to chip in $150,000 for the 2015 fiscal year to support this mission, the same amount it received last year. It will also request the same amount from Hall County government. 

After reorganizing last year, the Gainesville-Hall ’96 board began meeting to assess needs for bringing the Olympic venue back into shape, hoping to host more kayaking, canoeing and rowing events, plus expanding its recreational activities for the local community. 

The nonprofit’s initial focus was directed at hiring a venue manager, and after several months of interviewing and working through a field of candidates, Gainesville native and Olympic-level kayaker Morgan House was hired. 

Board Chairwoman Mimi Collins said the next step is to create a strategic plan and complete a capital needs assessment review. Renovating existing infrastructure is priority No. 1, and about $100,000 has been set aside to begin these improvements. 

“The list is very long and very large,” Collins said, adding that heating and air upgrades, plumbing fixes and dock replacements are needed. “We can’t begin to bring in new events and new revenue streams until we have basic infrastructure that can host events and can be marketed.”

Collins hopes the venue can expand its mission to include hosting events like triathlons, as well as offering new activities such as paddleboarding. Building out nearby walking trails could also be a component of the evolution of the venue while widening its appeal. 

Engaging the local community, as well as the rowing, kayaking and canoeing clubs that use the venue, will be critical to developing the long-term strategic plan, Collins said. 

“It needs to be successful for not only the community, but the two clubs that operate out there,” she added. 

Despite all the work that needs to be done, the venue remains a draw to both residents and visitors. For example, the venue will host Canada’s national kayak team trials in late April.

“Building on successes like this will help nurture the culture around the venue,” Collins said, “and hopefully make it into what it once was — an “integral part of our community.”


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