Lake Lanier Olympic Park, which is marking 25 years since the 1996 Olympic Games, is making improvements and getting ready for more events after cancelations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The park tore down old restrooms in April that had been used since the 1950s, and its new restroom facilities will be operational in September, said Robyn Lynch, director of tourism for the Gainesville Convention & Visitors Bureau. The restrooms had to pause building for a period while waiting on materials, but it received them last week and should be back on schedule to open in September, Lynch said.
“We have so many visitors to our park and having to use porta-potties is really not ideal, so I think this is going to be a big asset, and the community’s really going to enjoy having these big, nice restrooms available,” Lynch said.
Visitorship did not dip during the pandemic, she said. In 2019, the park saw 120,000 cars visit and that number was about the same in 2020, Lynch said. So far, 2021 is on pace to have a record number of visitors and with fewer events, because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The park did not have any rowing, kayaking or many other competition events this past spring, but it plans to be back to normal operations for those sports in spring 2022, unless COVID-19 conditions significantly worsen. The park also has plans to host competition events this fall, including wakeboarding and open water swimming, Lynch said.
The city of Gainesville is funding a renovation of the park’s boathouse in 2022 through hotel and motel taxes, Lynch said. And the Lake Lanier Olympic Park Foundation is in the middle of a capital campaign for additional projects including adding a pavilion for events on the park’s plaza, Lynch said.
The foundation will host a fundraising event for these projects on Aug. 7, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the 1996 Olympic Games.
The park recently finished new sidewalks in front of the courtesy docks, said Eric Larsen, the park’s special events manager. The foundation also plans to improve walking trails around the park, but that is a more long-term project, Larsen said.
The park has still been able to host some events this year, including Food Truck Fridays, and in November will host the Spring Chicken Festival, which was delayed because of the pandemic.
Even with delays and fewer events in the first half of the year, Larsen said, “attendance has been crazy,” at the park.
The park’s calendar is nearly full for the rest of the year, Larsen said, and it’s already starting to fill up for next year.