New Stonecrest development places Atlanta Sports City’s future in doubt

The newly formed development authority in the city of Stonecrest has approved its first big deal.

But by green-lighting one project, the authority has raised significant questions about the future of a different, high-profile development that has been stalled for more than two years.

The Stonecrest Development Authority on Sept. 12 approved $700 million in revenue bonds for a 300-acre project around the Mall at Stonecrest. The developer is businessman and philanthropist Lecester "Bill" Allen.

His plans include a 16-story hotel, amphitheater and convention center, On Common Ground News reported.

The land on which Allen plans to build was supposed to be used for the $200 million Atlanta Sports City complex that was first announced at a splashy February 2017 media event.

But some 32 months later, none of the Atlanta Sports City fields have been built; its’ backers face multiple lawsuits; and the opening date has been repeatedly pushed back.

Allen declined an interview request, but made clear through a spokesman that his project and his companies have no ties to Atlanta Sports City.

DeKalb County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, whose district includes the city of Stonecrest, said she was shocked to learn that Atlanta Sports City’s developers never owned the land on which they planned to build dozens of fields. She now describes the project as needing new leadership to salvage.

“As not only an elected official, but as a resident of Stonecrest I had high hopes for Atlanta Sports City,” Cochran-Johnson said. “It could have played a major role in the economic development of Stonecrest.”

Atlanta Sports City’s backers insist the project is moving forward despite years of delay and a lack of financing. Initial plans called for of sports fields of all types, along with other facilities that could accommodate tournaments and leagues at all levels.

Converted space at the mall was to provide sports therapy for athletes, along with food and shopping for thousands of spectators.

The face of Atlanta Sports City is master developer Vaughn Irons. Through a spokeswoman, he declined to answer The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s questions. But spokeswoman Tee Fox described the project as still in progress.

“Wanted to extend a friendly reminder that this is a privately funded project and we are not speaking to or about our current plans at this time,” Fox wrote in an email.

Property records show that a company controlled by Allen paid Cadillac Fairview, the Canada-based owners of the mall, $14 million in May for multiple parcels totaling 300 acres. Much of that same property is included in site plans still found in Atlanta Sports City’s website and social media channels.

Fox did not respond to a question about how Allen’s purchase of the land impacts Atlanta Sports City, which was supposed to be about 200 acres.

Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary was an early proponent of Atlanta Sports City, and in a May 2018 speech said he continued to back the project despite its delays.

Lary’s spokesman said Wednesday that the mayor expressed support for the complex just as he would for any development that would bring jobs to the city. But that doesn’t mean the mayor had any role in its success or possible failure, spokesman Adrion Bell said.

“We didn’t have not one dime in Atlanta Sports City,” Bell said. “The only thing we did was we shared in the excitement that the Atlanta Sports City people brought to us.”

Read more | Questions raised about status of Stonecrest’s Atlanta Sports City

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