FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Forsyth County commissioners approved a memorandum that requires developers of a new arena, The Gathering at South Forsyth, to land a professional hockey team before the county contributes any money for the project.
Channel 2′s Bryan Mims was there as commissioners voted four to one on the memorandum of understanding.
The vote essentially allows the developer to continue working with the county on the $2 billion project, and to continue efforts to lure a hockey team.
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“I think we owe it to ourselves as a community to take the next step and investigate this project,” said Commissioner Laura Semanson. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this community.”
If the development team lands a hockey franchise, the county would contribute $390 million to the project. That includes $350 million for the arena and $40 million for an arena parking deck.
But if there is no hockey team, the county would not invest any funds in the project.
“It’s all or nothing in terms of the NHL,” Semanson said. “We’re not going to get in and fund just another private event venue. It has to have an NHL team for us to participate.”
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She said a hockey team would be viable in the region.
“There is a cachet that comes with having a national franchise sports team, and I think the fan base is here on the north side of Atlanta,” she said.
The NHL has made no guarantee that it will bring a team to The Gathering. The development team has said that the NHL is not currently engaged in an expansion.
Plans for the project call for an 18,700-seat arena surrounded by restaurants, shops, hotels, apartments and offices. It would be located along Georgia 400 between Cumming and Alpharetta.
The memorandum of understanding is non-binding and changes can be made.
“So what this does is it gives us the road map moving forward to go back and sit down with The Gathering team,” said county manager David McKee.
In addition, the county would need to set up an arena authority and increase its hotel tax from 5% to 8%, which requires state approval. Forsyth County voters would also have to give the county redevelopment powers through a referendum, which allows the county to create a Tax Allocation District.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said without that, the project is “extraordinarily challenging and essentially unfeasible.”
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