A new manager and millions of dollars in renovations at Lake Lanier Olympic Park are drawing in more events to the esteemed sporting destination, meaning more business for the local area.
LAKE LANIER – APRIL 2016 – The spotlight shined bright on Lake Lanier Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympic Games, but as the crowds began to disperse and the light began to fade, local leaders wondered if their grand venue peaked in its beginning days. However, with a new manager at the helm and millions of dollars in fresh renovations, the sporting and recreation destination is attracting more elite events to its waterways. Which means a bright future not only for Lake Lanier Olympic Park, but also for surrounding local businesses.
The Gainesville Hall County 96 Roundtable hired Morgan House as the Park Manager in 2014. Before, the park relied only on volunteers. With the addition of an on-site manager, Lake Lanier has kept its grounds and waterways pristine and has begun more than 1 million dollars in renovations.
Current projects include a full interior makeover of the Olympic Tower, an additional restroom in the tower, two ADA accessible ramps and multiple beautification projects. Since the ’96 games, grandstands have been added to the park, as well as a plaza. These additions make it possible to host weddings, corporate events and festivals, as well as attract larger, more prestigious sporting events to the Park.
In March, Lake Lanier hosted the John Hunter Regatta, which brought thousands of athletes and spectators to the Gainesville area. In April, Lake Lanier Olympic Park will hold the Paralympic Team Trials, where athletes with disabilities will take to the waterways for the chance to make the U.S. Paralympic Canoe and Kayak Teams.
This May, Lake Lanier Olympic Park will reach its pinnacle point with the Pan American Championships. This four-day competition is the Final Continental Olympic Qualifier. Athletes from North, South and Central America will descend on Lake Lanier Olympic Park to compete for a spot in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. The Pan Am is the most elite tournament to grace the waters of Lake Lanier since the ’96 games, attracting some of the top sprint canoe and kayak sportsmen in the world, along with a host of spectators.
These highly anticipated and well-attended events, mean more patrons in Gainesville’s hotels, restaurants and stores. According to the Georgia Event Economic Impact Calculator, Lake Lanier Olympic Park will have a nearly 5 million dollar impact on the local area in just the first part of 2016. Tharpe Ward of Johnny’s BBQ says he’s seen the benefits of Lake Lanier Olympic Park’s many upgrades and subsequent sporting events, “It helps tremendously. Not only the visitors come eat, but also the teams…sometimes for both lunch and dinner! It’s been a big plus for us.”
The Gainesville/Hall community is benefiting from events like the Pan American Championships and citizens are taking notice by getting involved. The Vision 2030 Art Committee will display a grand art installation crafted by five local artists at the Continental Olympic Qualifier as part of the Free Range Art Project. Other local artists will design a Lake Lanier Olympic Park inspired Recycling Center. This is part of the county’s Adopt-A-Can program, which is aimed at visually enhancing local compactor sites and encouraging recycling. The water-sport inspired can, will stay at the Park through the summer for the 20th anniversary of the Olympic Games.
No artistic talents? That’s okay. There are plenty of ways to get involved in the Pan American Championships. Lake Lanier is looking for volunteers of all kinds; from helping teams get from the airport, to concessions workers, safety boat drivers, camera operators, parking attendants and more. Signing up to take part in this historic event is just one click away.
At Lake Lanier Olympic Park, it’s not just about the famed history, the prominent athletes who train and compete here or the world-class recreational activities it offers, it’s also a place North Georgians are proud to call home. At Lake Lanier Olympic Park, it’s a community affair.