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Plans show Lake Lanier venue change
Local, state leaders tour former Olympic site, review renderings

The Lake Lanier Olympic Venue is one of Northeast Georgia’s biggest assets, and right now it needs a little love.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins toured the Olympic venue Friday with Venue Manager Morgan House, Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan, Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs, Gainesville-Hall ’96 Chairwoman Mimi Collins and architects Robin Millard and Matt Millard.

The tour was an opportunity for local and state leaders to view some proposed renderings for updates to the Olympic venue, as well as Olympic memorabilia including replicas of the 1996 torches and programs from the 1996 Olympic Games rowing events.

“It’s not just dollars and cents,” Doug Collins said. “It’s civic pride. When you look back on our community and some of the old pictures we were looking through in the old programs, it’s just a reminder of the continuity that makes Gainesville and Hall great. That’s the people, the tradition and the heritage here.”

The proposed renderings include a widespread update of the entire Lake Lanier Olympic Venue campus. The first proposed phase is for ADA improvements including access to the lower plaza and the Finish Tower via a new access ramp, as well as some cosmetic updates to the tower and the addition of a handicap-accessible bathroom in the tower.

The second phase would include some park improvements. Designs include cleaning up walking trails on the campus, converting an existing storage unit into an outdoor pavilion and constructing two new pavilions, which would have outdoor fireplaces and could be rented by the public for events.

Finally, the third phase includes improvements to the main boathouse. Architect Matt Millard said they hope to renovate the exterior façade, update the facility’s two large meeting rooms, add a large back porch, add a new storage building and add a new parking lot and a more direct entry drive.

The facility is an asset not only to the Northeast Georgia community, but to the entire world, according to House.

During the Friday tour, the Canadian national rowing team practiced near the Finish Tower. House said the team could practice anywhere in the world, but they practice at the Olympic venue because it is truly the best.

“Usually during racing season our weather is moderate or nice,” House said. “But the big thing is that it’s not windy, and if it is windy, it’s fair for everybody. In some race courses, one lane will be blocked by a building or the shore. Here, if we have wind, it’s usually a head or a tail wind.”

The nonprofit Gainesville Hall ’96 has been working for several years to set a course for updates to the Olympic venue. Gainesville and Hall County governments are playing key roles in reviving the site by each contributing $150,000 a year to the nonprofit for this purpose.

“For the investment that citizens can see our city and county governments making here, it makes a huge impact,” Doug Collins said. “It makes a huge impact on our restaurants, our diners and our hotels. For us, it’s something we want to highlight in our ninth district, and we’re very proud of our elected officials taking an interest in this place.”