Centennial Olympic Park receives Downtown Economic Impact Award

April 5,2016

For nearly two decades, Centennial Olympic Park has played a significant role in the evolution and development of downtown Atlanta.

In addition to being a recreational venue for residents and tourists alike and a host to a number of community-wide events, the park has served as a catalyst for economic development in the area.

In the early ‘90s, Centennial Olympic Park’s neighborhood was a run-down part of town. Thanks to the vision of Billy Payne, who served as the CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, a multi-block eyesore was transformed into a gathering spot for visitors and residents.

Following the Olympic Games, a large portion of the park was closed and redesigned. In 1998, a newly landscaped park, with expanded amenities, was opened.

The 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park, which serves about three million visitors annually, is this year’s recipient of Central Atlanta Progress Inc.’s Downtown Economic Impact Award, which recognizes an individual, company or project that has stimulated revitalization efforts and has left a positive mark downtown.

“CAP’s Downtown Economic Impact award was established to recognize transformative projects that strengthen and advance the downtown community,” said CAP President A.J. Robinson. “On the occasion of Centennial Olympic Park’s 20th anniversary, it’s only fitting that we celebrate its catalytic legacy with this prestigious award.”

Since 1996, Centennial Olympic Park has attracted more than $2.4 billion in investment to the area, with another $1.5 billion in the pipeline, according to CAP.

“It is definitely an investment that has paid big dividends and will continue to pay big dividends for generations to come,” Robinson said.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which has operational responsibility for Centennial Olympic Park, is preparing to embark on a $25 million redevelopment master plan at the park.

According to information released by GWCCA, in FY 2015 Centennial Olympic Park accounted for $9.4 million of the $1.33 billion in total economic impact of the GWCC, the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park. The park generated $3.5 million in labor income and 106 jobs.

“The park is one of the major legacy venues from the ‘96 Olympic Games and that is something we look on with a great deal of pride and honor as the caretaker of that legacy,” said Frank Poe, executive director of the authority.

Improvements are planned for the park. The first phase of the capital campaign will be the $13 million acquisition and demolition of the Metro Atlanta Chamber building. Poe believes that work could begin as early as the first half of 2017.

The next phase will transform International Boulevard into a large pedestrian mall. The total construction schedule will be about two to 2.5 years.

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has committed $10 million for the project.

Russ Hardin, president of Woodruff Foundation, said Centennial Olympic Park has radically transformed what was a derelict industrial warehouse district into a tourist centerpiece with the World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and the College Football Hall of Fame. “It has done everything it was intended to do.”