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Arena has accomplished a lot in just 5 short years

Sometimes the thought of something and its potential are so high that the completed project pales in comparison to what you hoped it would be. But that's not the case with the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Saturday marks the five-year anniversary of the first major event to be held at the arena. Five years ago it was the Georgia Force literally kicking things off, bringing the Arena Football League to Duluth. Five days later George Strait played the first concert in the building, and the Gwinnett Gladiators and minor league hockey followed soon after.

Mr. Strait has returned to the arena several times since that inaugural show, and he's hardly alone. Attendance at the arena is 3.85 million and counting, people making their way to the building to see everything from bull riding to the Wiggles to high school wrestling.

Van Halen makes its way to the arena later this month, and it's amazing to me that this resurrected rock group's appearance in Gwinnett is nothing but a blip on the radar screen. Having big-name acts like that appear at the arena has become commonplace. Like the George Strait lyric says: "I've come to expect that from you."

Like a lot of folks, I was excited when plans for the arena were announced. I figured bringing minor league hockey and Arena football to Gwinnett would be great for the county and fun for fans. But I never imagined the caliber of bands and performers that would take the stage in Duluth.

Sure, George Strait was scheduled to open the place. But would others follow? The night I saw Bruce Springsteen in 2003 more than made a believer out of me.

This wasn't just any old musician. This was the Boss. Bruce freaking Springsteen. And the fact that I was able to drive from where I lived at the time and be in my seat in less than 10 minutes, was the icing on the cake. Goodbye Atlanta traffic, hello Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Getting to see legends like The Who, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty at the arena has been great. And the pro sports teams who call the place home are a major asset to the county.

And you can't discount the other events that visit. The arena has become a great home for the high school basketball and wrestling championships, and circuses and kids shows draw nicely.

The Harlem Globetrotters should continue that trend, and it's an event I'd like to see. I remember going to see them when I was a kid, and that nostalgia is luring me to see them again.

Like anyone interested in attending, I have a choice. The Globetrotters will play at Philips Arena in Atlanta on March 8 and at the Arena at Gwinnett Center on March 9.

That choice and those back-to-back dates say a lot about the arena, and how far it has come. It's nice to see a 5-year-old doing so well and living up to its potential.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.