The arena’s closest competitor will be Duluth’s Gas South Arena, which has a capacity of up to 13,000 people, about an hour drive west toward Atlanta.
Danny Bryant, general manager for the new arena, said he has already signed deals for 65 events including two cheer competitions, a robotics event and a regional hockey championship tournament. He hopes to fill the arena with 125 events a year covering 300 days, including about 25 concerts.
Paul Cramer, president and CEO of the Classic Center, said inflation has raised the price tag of the project from $70 million to about $130 million. But he said they have the money, culled largely from a mix of state funding, revenue bonds backed by Athens-Clarke County, private partnership funding and sponsorships.
The arena will also be home to assets from the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, which shut down in 2011 in Macon. Costumes, instruments and video and sound footage by the likes of James Brown, Ray Charles and R.E.M. that have been stored in a basement at the University of Georgia library archives can now be displayed around the concourse.
It will also be home to the University of Georgia’s Ice Dawgs hockey team and a future ECHL minor league hockey franchise.