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Gainesville wants to take over operations at Lake Lanier Olympic Park
City seeks to annex facility, hike hotel tax to pay for improvements
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The Olympic Park Boathouse on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, pictured Feb. 24, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

The city of Gainesville is asking Hall County’s legislative delegation to approve annexing Lake Lanier Olympic Park in to the city so the city can take over the park’s operations.

Currently, the city and Hall County jointly operate the park, which has hosted events such as the ICF World Dragon Boat Championships and was the site of rowing and paddling events for the 1996 Olympics.

Mayor Danny Dunagan said Tuesday at a 5:30 p.m. City Council meeting that the city is willing to take on a greater role in park operations while the county steps back. The park must be annexed in to the city for the city to take on this role, and the state legislature must approve that annexation, he said.

If the annexation is approved, Lake Lanier Olympic Park would become a city park. Dunagan said the Lake Lanier Olympic Park Foundation has developed a master plan that includes several updates to the park, which was built for the 1996 Olympics. The park is north of the city off Clarks Bridge Road.

County spokeswoman Katie Crumley told The Times in an email: "Hall County is working with the City of Gainesville to do what is in the best interest of the future of the Lake Lanier Olympic Rowing venue, which includes annexing the property into the City of Gainesville.

To develop a funding source for capital improvements at the park, the city wants to increase the hotel and motel tax rate from 6 to 8 percent, another change that will need approval from the Georgia General Assembly. Hall County’s current rate is 5 percent, according to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Other cities that have the 8 percent rate include Alpharetta, Atlanta, Dahlonega, Marietta and Cornelia.

The city has made about $800,000 to $900,000 from the hotel and motel tax annually for the past few years.

Dunagan said some projects officials hope could be completed at Lake Lanier Olympic Park include remodeling of the restrooms, a new pavilion and renovations of the boathouse. The park’s boathouse has flooded this year due to heavy rains and could require other repairs, Dunagan said.

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Rising Lake Lanier levels Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, flood the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club boathouse. About two feet of water flooded the lower level of the boathouse where boats are stored. - photo by Scott Rogers

“The hotel motel tax increase would help these capital items happen,” Dunagan said.

Plus, the park has a large economic impact that could continue to grow if more events are held there, Dunagan said.

“We’re having all these colleges from the North and so visit here,” he said. “We have been told many times in the past that it is the best place to row because it is all even. … We’ve got a lot of activity, and I think if we fix it up it will be the No. 1 rowing park in the nation.”

The city is also asking Hall County’s delegation to introduce legislation that would allow members of the Gainesville Redevelopment Authority to serve two consecutive terms.

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