July 4, 2017 Atlanta - The finale fireworks spectacular light up over the Downtown skyline during Centennial Olympic Park's Fourth of July Celebration on Tuesday, July 4, 2017. Centennial Olympic Park's annual Fourth of July Celebration offers free family-oriented entertainment, including live music and the Southeas's largest fireworks display. Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which owns and operates the 21-acre park, has partnered with Lenox Square to combine their fireworks shows into one. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com
Photo: Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com

Cox Foundation gives $2 million for Centennial Olympic Park expansion

The James M. Cox Foundation has donated $2 million toward the expansion and renovation of Centennial Olympic Park as part of a multimillion-dollar effort to spruce up the downtown landmark.

The Georgia World Congress Center, which oversees the 21-acre park, is trying to raise $25 million to develop the site, the most visible legacy of the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

Jim Kennedy, chairman of Cox Enterprises and grandson of company founder James M. Cox, announced the gift.

“Cox Enterprises was honored to be an early supporter of the 1996 Olympic Games,” Kennedy said. “Under Billy Payne’s leadership, we knew it would be a success and an important part of our city’s legacy. That legacy continues today through Centennial Olympic Park. This expansion will allow the park to be an even greater gathering place for Atlanta’s residents and visitors.”

Cox is the parent company of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As part of the expansion plan, the Georgia World Congress Center expects to create a new pedestrian plaza, revamp the park’s amphitheater, install a bike depot and open the Baker Street corner to neighboring attractions.

The renovation of the park also calls for the demolition of the Chamber building to better open the park up to Marietta Street and offer fuller views of the College Football Hall of Fame and the entrance to the GWCC, the nation’s fourth-largest convention center.

“Jim Kennedy and Cox were among the first true believers, and their support helped us realize Atlanta’s Olympic dream. Their continued support through the Cox Foundation’s gift to Centennial Olympic Park keeps the dream alive,” said Billy Payne, the former CEO of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. “The park is the tangible reminder of the 1996 Centennial Games and is a shining example of how Atlantans can make anything happen when they work together.”

Last November, Bank of America donated $1 million. Other contributions to the campaign include a $1 million donation from AT&T, $1 million from Atlanta-based Coca-Cola in May and $10 million from the Woodruff Foundation.

The Cox gift builds on a $6 million grant from the James M. Cox Foundation to the PATH Foundation, which is funding the creation of a central trail hub within Centennial Olympic Park.

The hub will create connectivity within the park, as well as with nearby destinations including the existing PATH trail network and the Atlanta BeltLine.

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