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Commentary: Sprucing up park honors Atlanta Olympic history

Original story by Maria Saporta on WABE

Centennial Olympic Park water feature (photo: Britton Edwards)

Centennial Olympic Park water feature (photo: Britton Edwards)

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation has awarded $10 million towards the rejuvenation of Centennial Olympic Park. A $25 million fundraising campaign to improve the park will launch in January, 2016 ─ all in an effort to mark the 20th anniversary of Atlanta’s hosting the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago, Centennial Olympic Park replaced acres and acres of parking lots and vacant industrial buildings.

The park, the most significant legacy from the Olympics, has become a new front door for Atlanta.

The park’s owner, the Georgia World Congress Center, wants to reinvest and refresh the green space that has transformed downtown Atlanta.

The $25 million  campaign includes the acquisition and demolition of the metro Atlanta chamber building and turning that into green space.

It also will create a new special events space and a new park’s maintenance facility next to the aquarium. Major entrances to the park will be more welcoming to visitors and residents. The amphitheater will be upgraded and expanded with a band shell, a stage and additional seating.

And perhaps most symbolic of all ─ Andrew Young International Boulevard will become a pedestrian plaza, connecting the Fountain of the Rings with the rest of the park all on one level.

The public will have a new opportunity to buy commemorative bricks that will be placed in the plaza’s pavement.

Ideally, the Georgia World Congress Center and the Atlanta business and philanthropic community will take this opportunity to highlight Atlanta’s Olympic legacy.

The Olympic exhibit could be moved to the park.  The flags of all nations that have hosted the Olympics since 1896 could decorate the green space.  And plaques could be placed around the park, informing people of the role the games played in Atlanta’s history.

Let’s be bold and creative as we begin to spruce up Atlanta’s front lawn.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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  1. Carl Holt November 21, 2015 9:19 am

    Love the idea of moving the Olympic exhibit from Buckhead to downtown.Report

  2. Georges Hoffmann November 24, 2015 9:57 am

    I will respectfully disagree with the idea of moving the Olympic history section from the Atlanta History Center to Centennial Park. At the AHC the Olympics of 1996 are presented and explained as the major historic event it represented in Atlanta’s history. The visitors approach it that way also. The addition of the Cyclorama to the AHC will also make of the AHC “THE history center of Atlanta” and become a “must see” location for students of all ages.

    Centennial Park is a place for a different type of entertainment: Coca Cola, Aquarium, College Hall of Fame, fountains, even if it all takes place under the flags of the Olympic hosts. It maybe a good idea to add some outdoor pictures of the games, but the in-depth exhibition should remain at the AHC. By moving the exhibits from the AHC to Centennial Park you will lose the visitors who would have seen it at the AHC and – I am afraid – you will not gain many visitors at the Centennial park.Report


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