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  • Atlanta Weighs Future of 1996 Olympic Venue


    (ATR) Georgia State University, one of three bidders hoping to acquire all or part of Atlanta's Turner Field, is honoring the legacy of the 1996 Olympics with its proposal.

    Festivities at Centennial Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 1996 Games (Getty)
    "As a downtown anchor, we embraced the importance of hosting the world during the Atlanta Games," Andrea Jones, associate vice president of GSU's public relations, tells Around the Rings.

    "Our own sports arena served as the venue for badminton and the Olympic village became our first residential halls.

    "Our proposed development will honor the legacy of the Olympics.

    "We believe this public-private partnership has all of the ingredients to transform this part of the city forever."

    Turner Field - formerly Centennial Olympic Stadium - hosted the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field events during the 1996 Games.

    Local recreation authorities overseeing the redevelopment of the Atlanta ballpark announced they received three bids on Monday.

    Georgia State, Mercury Youth Organization, Inc. and Rita World Pearl Kingdom, LLC. submitted proposals to the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority (AFCRA).

    Over the past two years, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed dropped hints of prospective bids from large scale development groups, corporate entities, and casinos. ATR has contacted the mayor's office, but has yet to receive comment from Reed on the bids.

    Fans at Turner Field attend the first baseball game at the ballpark after its redevelopment in the wake of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. (Getty)
    Georgia State is the only prominent contender in the running so far. 

    "Georgia State has a history of working collaboratively with the city and downtown partners," Jones tells ATR.

    "Because of its success in building its campus through the redevelopment of downtown properties, the university is widely credited with being a major force in the revitalization of downtown Atlanta."

    Georgia State and real estate firm Carter announced a proposal in 2014 for the redevelopment of Turner Field.

    According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the entities are behind a rumored $300-million project that includes student housing, retail, and the conversion of Turner Field into a football stadium.

    Speaking with ATR, Jones says it is too early to speculate on funding. She adds, "GSU welcomes the opportunity to expand upon our community outreach programs in the neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field.

    "We want to continue to engage the community in conversation and work collaboratively toward a common goal."

    The Olympic cauldron is lifted into place prior to the opening of the 1996 Games. (Getty)
    Since the 1996 Olympics, Turner Field has been home to Major League Baseball team the Atlanta Braves. 

    Many locals have rallied for the delay of the ballpark's sale, but Atlanta leaders are hoping to have a new owner in place before the Braves move to their new venue in Dec. 2016.

    Bidders will be faced with a decision on what to do with the 1996 Olympic Cauldron. AFCRA maintains the cauldron that U.S. boxing legend Muhammad Ali famously lit at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Games.

    The recreation authority has not released the amount of the bids or details including how much of Turner Field each bidder hopes to acquire next year if chosen.

    According to its website, Mercury Youth Organization Inc. formed in the 1970s to train kids to participate in track and field events. Mercury Youth has sought to build an indoor track for year-round training in several sports. ATR is waiting for comment from the organization.

    Rita World Pearl Kingdom, LLC could not be reached for comment. Matthew Garbett, spokesman for the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, told the AJC he was surprised by bids from Mercury Youth and Rita World.

    "We always suspected there wouldn't be a lot of bids, especially when the person making the final decision has publicly supported one institution," he said, in reference to Mayor Reed's backing of Georgia State's bid.

    "I think everyone else is just very surprised and interested to see what the proposals are for these other groups, and in fact, who one of the groups even is."

    Centennial Olympic Stadium hosted track and field events during the 1996 Games. (Getty)
    AFCRA's redevelopment area, contained in its request for proposals, covers 67 acres of land. Issued on Oct. 2, a link to the RFP can be found at

    Among its parameters, the RFP says the chosen developer will be the one equipped "to create an economic anchor that drives demand for new development in the immediate area, generates new jobs and tax-paying activities while simultaneously facilitating the long-term integration of Atlanta's downtown business district and surrounding neighborhoods."

    Keisha Lance Bottoms, AFCRA's executive director, tells ATR that a selection committee will begin reviewing the bids over the next few weeks. "A recommendation from that committee will then be forwarded to the full board of the recreation authority for approval."
    She added, "We have received a tremendous amount of feedback, and as you would expect, there are differing opinions about what the redevelopment of this area should entail.

    "Given the historic and iconic nature of this community and Turner Field, it is not surprising that there is a tremendous amount of interest in what the future of this area will be.

    "That is why it has been extremely important to carefully consider the interests of the surrounding neighborhoods, along with what will be best for all those in Atlanta and Fulton County as a whole." 

    Written by Nicole Bennett

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