By: Julie Calhoun
The Classic Center’s Expansion Grand Opening Gala wasn’t just about champagne and black ties. With the official cut of the ribbon the 24 million dollar expansion is ready to host many new events here in Athens. Secretary of State Brian Kemp is bringing the Georgia Republican Party 2013 State Convention to the Classic Center which will be great for small businesses and the Athens community. The grand hall showcased exhibits from several of Athens top tourist destinations and popular restaurants downtown to display the heart of Athens. Mayor Denson said this about the Classic Center, “This is the crown jewel of downtown Athens and downtown is the crown jewel of Athens.” The Classic Center has already landed 19 new conventions. Those who attend conventions are some of the biggest spenders which brought in 235 million dollars in direct spending last year. Kevin Langston, deputy commissioner for tourism says how this expansion will help Athens economy, “Meetings and conventions bring lots of dollars to a community. One of the great things about meetings and conventions is that people come and enjoy the meeting, spend lots of money while they’re here and you don’t have to build roads and schools and hospitals for them they just leave their dollars in the community.” A hotel that connects directly to the classic center is planned to be built which will make Athens stand apart from other convention destinations. The expansion is expected to bring 6 million dollars in visitor spending and create 200 new jobs. Mayor Denson said, “It’s good clean economic development, it doesn’t leave behind dirt or smoke or anything it’s fun for everybody.” The Hospitality industry is one of the top three producers of jobs in Athens Clarke County. Small businesses and hotels are working together to make Athens a top tourist industry. Some of the major tourist attractions are the UGA Athletic Association, Georgia Museum of Natural History, as well as Athen’s famous music scene.