College Park broke ground on its new arena last year. It’s scheduled to open in October. ARIELLE KASS/AKASS@AJC.COM

College Park arena announces late October opening date, first events

College Park’s new arena has an opening date.

The Gateway Center Arena, which will house the Atlanta Hawks’ development team, is set to open Oct. 26. The first public event is a Nov. 9 open house.

The arena broke ground in February 2018, and will cost $46.5 million — an increase from the $42 million estimated at groundbreaking. Atlanta’s Fox Theatre will also program events at the arena. Immature is slated to play there as part of the #TBTour Nov. 23.

The first College Park Skyhawks game is Nov. 21.

Mercedes Miller, the executive director of the arena and the Georgia International Convention Center, said it’s been nearly two decades since a new venue opened on Atlanta’s south side. She said she thinks the arena will “change the whole landscape” of the area.

“It will be a big economic catalyst for the south side,” she said.

College Park Mayor Jack Longino said previously that the arena likely won’t make money, but will bring increased prestige to the area. The Hawks development team will use the space about 10 percent of the time. In addition to the Fox Theatre’s programming, it will be available for graduation rentals or other events.

The venue will seat 5,000 for concerts and 3,500 for sporting events.

“I think the possibilities are endless,” Miller said. “We don’t have anything like this on this side of town.”

Miller said she thought the arena could help change the poor perception of the area. She credited the city’s leadership with innovative thinking in getting the project built.

Residents at the groundbreaking said they were excited about the project, which will bring an estimated 600 jobs to College Park. More construction is also planned for the area.

But not everyone is in favor of the project. Resident John Duke, who is challenging Longino in November’s mayoral race, called the arena project “a complete fleecing of the taxpayer.” He said the city could have better spent the money on other projects that would benefit the whole community.

“We’re not doing it because we’re building stupid arenas for professional teams,” he said. “No business person would ever take this deal.”

The arena will be paid for largely with rental car taxes and other money from tourists, in addition to $9 million from the city’s general fund. College Park last year took out bonds to cover the construction costs.

Miller said she thinks local residents will value not having to drive to Atlanta or north Fulton County for their entertainment.

“It’s just the best thing happening on the south side right now,” she said.

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