Lake Lanier Olympic Park will celebrate its 20th Olympic anniversary with the most prestigious event to hit its waterway since the 1996 Games, bringing an economic boost to the greater Gainesville, Georgia area. The Pan American Championship is a four-day tournament, May 19-22, which will host top sprint kayak and canoe athletes from North, South and Central America. The Pan Am is the final Continental Qualifier before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
After the excitement of the 1996 Games, tourism was at an all time high. However, as the spotlight began to fade and the recession began to hit, local leaders wondered if the glory days were behind them. In 2014, The Gainesville Hall 96 Roundtable decided to make a change. They hired a full-time manager to maintain the grounds, before the venue relied only on volunteers.
With a new manager at the helm, Lake Lanier Olympic Park started 1 million dollars in renovations, ultimately attracting more esteemed events to its waterways.
With more tournaments on the books, it means more patrons in Gainesville/Hall’s hotels, restaurants and shops. Tharpe Ward of Johnny’s BBQ says he’s seen the benefits of LLOP’s upgrades and subsequent sporting events, “It helps tremendously. Not only do the visitors come eat, but also the teams…sometimes for both lunch and dinner. It’s been a big plus for us.”
According to the Georgia Economic Impact Calculator, The Pan Am, along with Paralympic Team Trials on April 29-30 and earlier elite events and training camps will net the greater Gainesville, Georgia area nearly 5 million dollars in the first part of 2016.