CID vies to keep tennis stadium

STONE MOUNTAIN -- Community leaders are making one more push to try to save an Olympic venue, this time in hopes of creating an economic boom.

While the Stone Mountain tennis stadium, which was used in the 1996 Games, is slated for demolition, members of the Evermore Community Improvement District believe a revival of the stadium could fit in with a revitalization project for the West Park Place area.

"I don't want to see a public asset worth $30 million go to waste if we can make something of it," said CID board member Kenny King, a Stone Mountain native.

A preliminary economic study of the stadium on the area showed an impact of $160 million a year, but officials have tried to create a niche for the stadium for the past decade.

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which owns the facility, decided to give up on the venue, which has been losing money for years, and the group engaged in a 50-year lease with Gwinnett County government last year.

The county, though, intended to tear down the stadium and open 15 tennis courts there as a county park.

King said leaders hope the stadium can be transformed for other sporting competitions, become a tennis mecca or a concert or meeting venue -- likely, a multi-purpose facility for all those options. Adding a roof would be expensive, but it could open the facility up to even more opportunities, he said.

For now, though, CID leaders want to begin a methodical study of the facility and its possibilities. As part of the cause, board members will vote Friday on moving its office to the stadium's gift shop, where they could get a closer look as well as provide some security to the abandoned stadium.

Next door, a Super Target will close by the end of the month, after leaders were unsuccessful in lobbying to keep the store open.

King and CID economic development manager David Stedman said they weren't sure the impact of Target's closure would be on the project, but the county has approved a tax allocation district to finance revitalization in the area surrounding both. There, money can be leveraged for road and water and sewer improvements, and Stedman said officials have applied for a grant to fund a study.

"We're daring to go where people have already failed," King said. "But if it doesn't work out, it won't be because we didn't try."