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Amphitheater at Lake Lanier Islands to get makeover
State to give $2 million for extensive renovations
Grier Todd, left, CEO of LLI Management, and Bill Donohue, executive director of the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, walk up the steps of the ampitheater at Lake Lanier Islands. - photo by Tom Reed

BUFORD - Some 30 years of shows and social gatherings — as well as extreme weather conditions — have put a beating on the amphitheater at Lake Lanier Islands’ Presentation Pointe.

Paint is peeling on the pavilion’s outdated exterior and some of the wood retaining wall in the seating area is starting to buckle.

But officials with LLI Management Co., which owns the lease on the South Hall resort, and the state-created Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, which manages the resort, said they don’t plan to let the aging attraction fall into obscurity.

The resort has received $2 million from the state to complete a face-lift, work that could begin in early 2011.

“The money was just appropriated, so we’re in a conceptual phase,” said Bill Donohue, the authority’s executive director.

Early plans, however, call for enclosing the pavilion to make it usable year-round, upgrading restrooms and “putting in some component for retail food and beverage concession for events ... and other functions we have,” he said.

“It won’t be an overly fancy building. It will be a multipurpose, functional space,” Donohue added.

Planners “haven’t exactly zeroed in yet” on how to fix up the grassy seating area.

“We may take the center portion and make it fixed seating (with chairs),” he said.

“Other areas ... may get leveled off and become a more flexible space, which could be tables and chairs — sort of the Chastain kind of thing,” Donohue said, referring to the popular Atlanta venue. “... We’re talking to a lot of folks to figure out what kind of combination makes sense.”

The amphitheater now seats about 1,200 to 1,500 people.

“We need to wrestle with what can we afford to do and what works best,” Donohue said of the project.

As part of a master plan, extensive work totaling some $75 million has been done throughout the 1,100-acre resort, including new roads and main bridge over Lake Lanier, completion of Legacy Lodge & Conference Center and construction of villas next to the lodge.

A key change was moving the main gates beyond Presentation Pointe so that people can get to the amphitheater and other public areas without paying admission.

The resort is looking at developing a “Georgia-made, Georgia-grown marketplace that would have components of a farmers market but (also) other retail opportunities ... and maybe expand that to cooking (events) to wine tastings,” Donohue said.

“This facility, we think, is particularly well placed,” he said.

Beyond concerts and school functions, officials see possibilities to use the venue for local theater groups and church-sponsored events.

“We think it has all sorts of possibilities for paid events, free events and as a regional attraction,” Donohue said.

William and Grace Learned of Lawrenceville stopped by with their 5-year-old granddaughter, Madison, to check out the islands and stopped first at Presentation Pointe.

“We like it. There’s a real serene feeling here, real peaceful ... especially with the way (the amphitheater) is set up, overlooking the lake and all,” William Learned said. “... If you’re here on a hot summer evening, you’ve got a good breeze blowing.”

Grier Todd, CEO of LLI Management, said he sees the amphitheater work as just one more part of an effort to “rebrand the island.”

“It’s taking the old worn-out structures that were here and upgrading them to a level that the region would be proud of,” he said.
“And it’s another revenue producer, which creates jobs and tax dollars and everything for Hall County and the whole region.”