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‘Legacy for generations’: Construction starts at boathouse at Lake Lanier Olympic Park
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A groundbreaking ceremony is held Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at Lake Lanier Olympic Park for the new $21 million boathouse to be constructed. The boathouse will feature a large ballroom, seating up to 400 people with an outdoor pavilion or reception area with capacity for 140 people. - photo by Scott Rogers

City officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the revival of the boathouse at Lake Lanier Olympic Park. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Danny Dunagan, Gainesville city council member and former mayor. He said it took a lot of “blood, sweat and tears” to maintain the boathouse since its construction for the 1996 Olympic Games. 

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A groundbreaking ceremony is held Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, at Lake Lanier Olympic Park for the new $21 million boathouse to be constructed. The boathouse will feature a large ballroom, seating up to 400 people with an outdoor pavilion or reception area with capacity for 140 people. - photo by Scott Rogers

The boathouse was built as a temporary facility, and it was never meant to last more than a couple years. It was in bad shape before being torn down. The foundation was cracked, and the basement flooded often. 

“The whole building will raise in elevation so they don't continue to have the flooding problems that the old building had,” said Project Manager Ashley Haynes for Carroll Daniel Construction. 

Gainesville’s Tourism Director Robyn Lynch said the $21 million boathouse will serve two purposes — as a space for meetings, conferences and events, and to “support the Olympic mission, which is to cultivate champions in sport and in life, to deliver experiences that inspire communities and celebrate our Olympic legacy for generations to come.” 

Last year, Nevin Harrison trained at Lake Lanier before making Olympic history by becoming the first American woman to win a canoe sprint gold medal.

“City leadership along with the City Council and the Lake Lanier Olympic Park Foundation have had a vision of rebuilding the boathouse into a facility that would mirror the reputation that the park and the racecourse have as one of the top venues in the world,” Lynch said. 

The three-level boathouse will feature 17,000 square feet of meeting space, an outdoor covered terrace with a fireplace, a ballroom with seating capacity for 400, executive boardroom, catering kitchen and patio seating overlooking the lake. 

The bottom level is designed for the Lake Lanier Rowing Club and the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, with a fitness center, locker rooms and direct access to the docks.  

“We will also have space dedicated to the legacy of the Olympics,” Lynch said. 

She said tourism generated a record-breaking $19 million in the past year – a third of which was based out of Lake Lanier Olympic Park. 

The “special” thing about the park, said architect Matt Millard, is that it is not going the way of other Olympic venues across the state. 

“A lot of these old Olympic venues become sad stories,” he said. “This park is one of very, very few retired Olympic venues that are still used for its (original) purpose.” 

The boathouse is expected to cost about $21 million and is slated for completion in the fall of 2023. 

The city has issued a bond, which will be repaid with revenue from the city’s hotel-motel tax, which was raised from 6% to 8% in 2019 to fund improvements at the park.