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Stone Mountain Tennis Center to become county park

LAWRENCEVILLE - An Olympic venue will become a county park.

Commissioners agreed Tuesday to operate the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, although the center's 8,000-seat stadium will be demolished before the county takes over the location.

"That's the gateway to our county along (U.S. Highway) 78," Commissioner Mike Beaudreau said. "It's a really good thing."

For a decade after the Olympics, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association attempted to bring success to the center, but after a $1.5 million loss on a tournament in 1997 and annual losses of $200,000, it was padlocked two years ago.

Recently, officials attempted to market the stadium as a potential concert venue, but Curtis Branscome, CEO of the association, said there were no takers.

"We just couldn't make it work, so we wanted to get some use out of it," Branscome said. "I would rather it be successful and useful and functional."

Built for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, the stadium had water leakage problems and had a high cost to maintain, Branscome said.

The 15 tennis courts, though, are in good shape, and Branscome said the county parks department, which has experience in running tennis facilities, will be better suited to managing the center.

Commissioners engaged in a 50-year lease with the association, at a cost of $1 a year. Branscome said the 24.5 acres must remain a recreational venue, but the association has approval rights for any further development of a park.

Phil Hoskins, director of Gwinnett's community services department, said the county will take over the tennis center on Jan. 1, but it would likely open to the public in mid-2010.