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Design & Development

Local businessman planning 18,000-seat arena in Atlanta

Images: SCI Architects

Plans have been outlined for a new $1bn (£804m/€911m) arena in the US city of Atlanta that could host an NHL ice hockey franchise in the future.

Local businessman Vernon Krause, chief executive of Krause Auto Group, has targeted a plot of land in Forsyth County for a wide-ranging development that would be anchored by an 18,000-seat arena.

The project, which has been dubbed The Gathering at South Forsyth, would also feature restaurants, shops and residential spaces. The site was originally zoned for a regional mall development more than 15 years ago but the plans did not come to fruition and the land has since been empty.

Krause said: “The community of South Forsyth holds great meaning for me. As a global entertainment hub, The Gathering at South Forsyth will provide residents, employers and visitors with the ability to see their favourite musician, experience a family-friendly ice show or eat at a James Beard-awarded restaurant without having to sit in their car for hours.

“The development will include the best in advanced technology, sustainability, walkability and connectivity – all within a comfortable and accessible setting.”

The development team behind the project will file a request for an overlay district on April 25. The development plan currently includes 1.6 million square feet of commercial and retail space, a 750,000-square-foot arena, a 100,000-square-foot community centre, a 7,500-square-foot fire station, 450 hotel rooms with meeting spaces, and residential units.

The development team includes Dovin Ficken LLC as legal counsel, Stafford Sports as the owner’s representative, Nelson as the land planners, JLL as the real estate advisors, SCI Architects as the arena architect, Kimley-Horn as the civil engineer, and Stone Planning as the economic impact researcher.

Plans for The Gathering at South Forsyth were first reported by WSB-TV. When asked whether the project could house an NHL franchise, Forsyth County commissioner Laura Semanson told WSB-TV: “That’s not something that I can guarantee at this point.

“What I can say about it is that you know, we are positioning this development to be able to host something of that nature, as well as, you know, all of the other things that you might go down to the Benz (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United) for.”

Carl Hirsch, managing partner of Stafford Sports, also insisted that the arena is not being planned with the sole purpose of hosting an NHL team. “It is being built to be self-sustaining without any professional sports tenants,” he said. “However, we would love to have a professional sports tenant, if and when one becomes available.”

Atlanta has been without an NHL team since 2011, when the Thrashers were sold to True North Sports & Entertainment and relocated to the Canadian city of Winnipeg, rebranding as the Jets. The Thrashers played at State Farm Arena, which now primarily serves as the home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently namechecked Atlanta as a city that has expressed an interest in having a franchise, but insisted that expansion is not currently a priority for the league.

The Gathering at South Forsyth is expected to cost upwards of $2bn and the construction phase will reportedly take three to four years.