There have been so many discussions about Rio 2016. Not just about whether the country itself is able to stand it, but moreover, what Brazil shall do with all the stadiums. There have been quite a lot of temporary venues for the 2012 London Olympics, which used quite a lot of available facilities. What about Atlanta, 22 years after the “Centennial Games”? I just parts of my time during my trip following the 2018 Weird Al Yankovic Tour to stop by a couple of former Olympic venues and have a look how they are used today.
This article focuses on the venues I in fact visited and may thus not be exhaustive.
Centennial Olympic Stadium
Sports: Athletics, Ceremonies
Was: Turner Field (Baseball Stadium)
Now: Georgia State Stadium (American Football)
From the very beginning of the Centennial Olympic Stadium has been planned to become Turner Field, the new home of the Atlanta Braves following the Fulton County Stadium (see below). Thus, the Olympic Stadium had a very characteristic form: instead of being oval, it had one tip, which after the Olympics hosted the Home Base area.
At the end of the 2016 season, the Braves left the Turner Field and the Stadium is now transformed to the Georgia State Stadium to host College Football. Some of the original stands are still used.
Fulton County Stadium
Now: Turned down / Parking Lot
The Fulton County Stadium has been next to the Olympic Stadium, right across the street. Te 52,000 capacity arena hosted the Olympic Baseball and was the home of the Atlanta Braves. With the reformation of the Olympic Stadium to Turner Field, the Braves moved across the streeet and the 1966-constructed Fulton County Stadium has been torn down and now serves as a parking lot. Only one piece of the original wall is still displayed, showing the place where Hank Aaron placed his historic 715th home run. Furthermore, the historic bases are marked on the ground and the walls of the parking lot remind of the old arena.
Sports: Volleyball (Final)
Now: CNN Center
It is hard to imagine that the place which is now hosting CNN once has been a sports arena, hosting the Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Trashers before these moved to Winnipeg. Around the Olympic days, the arena has no longer been regarded to be suitable for the Hawks operations, who thus moved to the new build Philips Arena nextby – which is, like the Mercedes-Benz Stadium nowadays, based on the Olympic ground in Atlanta, but not an Olympic venue.
Sports: Basketball (Final), Artistic Gymnastics, Handball (Final)
Now: Turned down / replaced by Mercedes-Benz Stadium
The massive Georgia Dome hosted the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL (American Football) until 2017 and had some prominent Olympic appearances. It has been closed down in June 2017, demolished a couple of months later with the Mercedes-Benz Stadium directly next to it already in place.
Alexander Memorial Coliseum
Now: McCarnsish Pavilion
This Georgia Tech-based ground hosted the Olympic Boxing during the Centennial Games. After a renovation in 2010, the “Thrillerdome” (aneme after a very close 1983-84 Basketball season) turned into the McCarnish Pavillion. It is nowadays still in use by Georgia Tech and has also been used as replacement venue several times, e.g. due to lower capacities in the Philips Arena or the demolition of Georgia Dome.
Georgia World Congress Center
Sports: Fencing, Handball, Judo, Table Tennis, Weightlifting, Wrestling
Now: Still in use as congress center
The GWCC, which is still in use, granted its capacities and exhibition halls to a huge variety of sports. It is based closed to the other Olympic major central arenas and is still in use as congress facility.
Morris Brown College Stadium
Sports: Field Hockey
Now: Alonzo Herndon Stadium / Ruins
The quite traditional, 1948-opened Morris Brown Colleage Stadium (now: Alonzo Herndon Stadium) hosted the Olympic Hockey Finals. In several newspaper articles I read, it has been regarded to be some sort of “Shame of the Atlanta Olympics” as there is no real use any more for the 15,000 two-sided major arena. The Stadium is closed and is not allowed to be entered, due to its weak substance (as well as some facilities around the stadium). As one of the tribunes is also a tunnel head of the MARTA Atlanta local train service, it may be difficult to demolish this ground (which would likely be the most sensible decision).
Clark Atlanta University Stadium
Sports: Field Hockey
Now: Panther Stadium
The nowadays college football Panther Stadium hosted the group matches and initial playoff stages of the Olympic Field Hockey tournament. As it is part of the campus I could only take some snaps from outside / street side.
Stone Mountain Tennis Center
Now: Turned Down
Seeing that arena been turned on with the beginning of August 2017 and now being just a blocked green lawn area has been a huge disappointment to me on Day 1 of my trip as I have so much memories to the 1996 Olympic Tennis tournament, especially because of my idol Leander Paes (India). It is shocking to see that even the sports of tennis is not able to integrate this former 12,000 people centre court area in their event calendars.
After the Olympics, it has only been used for very rare occasions. Wikipedia for example states a 1998 Davis Cup World Group First Round Tie vs. Russia and a Roberta Flack concert in 2005. Apart from the center court, it hosted an additional 15 outer courts – what a massive event space!
Wolf Creek Shooting Complex
Now: Tome Lowe Shooting Grounds
This venue, which situated in close proximity to the airport in a beautiful scenery, has been the last one I visited during my Weird Al Yankovic 2018 Tour trip. The trap and skeet facilities have been in use, while I have been there. Though major competitions have been moved to other places in the States, Tom Lowe Shooting Grounds still hosts important national events.
Lake Lanier / Gainesville
Sports: Rowing, Canoeing
Now: Still in use
I visited this venue on the second day of my Weird Al tour trip. The scenery is awesome and the facilities are still in use, There are also some Olympic memories around. The venue still hosts major competitions. The area is really beautiful by the way and worth a visit.
Ocoee Whitewater Center
Sports: Canoe Slalom
Now: In use as rafting and canoeing facility, Canoe Slalom facilities removed
This wildwater area in the Blue Ridge Mountains has also been part of Day 2 of my Weird Al trip. Apart from the lines holding the canoe slalom gates, all Olympic facilities are still in place, including the dams controlling the flow of water. It is a very popular canoeing and rafting resort, which is however no longer used for professional competitions.
Georgia International Horse Park
Sports: Horse Sports
Now: Still in use
This place has been the first venue I visited on my drive from Augusta back to Atlanta. Even when you enter the entrance parkway in Conyers, GA, there are still a couple of miles to go until you really reach the wonderful adress 1996 Centennial Olympic Parkway. The area is just huge, but at least in good shape and still in use. Especially the Grand Prix Stadium itself, to which I could only get closer, but not inside, is massive. The area also includes some posh restaurants and an hotel. Nice area definitely!
As far as I could find out, the Olympics venues I did not visit are as follows today:
- The Georgia State University Gymnasium (sports. Badminton), now GSU Arena, is still in use.
- The aquatics facilities at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center have been reduced in capacity, but are still in use by the University.
- The Morehouse College Gymnasium (sports: Basketball) is still in use
- The Atlanta Beach Beach Volleyball arena is now named Clayton County International Park and used as an recreational area and Water Park.
- The Archery and Track Cycling facilities at Stone Mountain Park are no longer in use. Remains of the cycling track are now part of a hiking trail.
- The Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, hosted soccer and is now hosting several College Football Teams as Camping World Stadium.
- Golden Park in Columbus, Georgia, hosted the Softball event and is still present. However, it is currently not home of any professional Baseball or Softball Team
- Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama, hosted parts of the soccer matches and is nowadays still used for American Football on college level.
- The Orange Bowl in Miami also hosted soccer matches and was demolished in 2018.
- The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium / RFK Stadium has also been used for Olympic Soccer. There is currently no professional event in the venue, which is still existing.
- The huge 92,000 seats Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, hosted the Soccer Final. It is home of the Georgia Bulldogs in the NCAA.
- Stegeman Coliseum (sports: Rhythmic Gymnastics, Volleyball) is also based in Athens and still in use.
- Wassaw Sound is a bay which hosted the Olympic Sailing. It is still in use as a sailing resort. I could not find information whether it still hosts compeititions or not.
My Thoughts after the Trip
Despite the venue concept of Atlanta is regarded to be the beginning of the turning point of how to use Olympic venues after the Games, you easily see how massive the demands on the city are and how difficult it is to deal with this burden even in the dynamic and sports-addicted city of Atlanta. You are simply forced to built arenas for sports which you already know that it will not significantly grow in popularity after the big event. Atlanta may have troubled more with sports like tennis (amazing to see that the rich sport of tennis is not able to somehow make use of that venue…) or field hockey – in Germany, it could have been a baseball stadium at the same time.
I thus more and more felt that apart from a list of “Olympic Core Sports” like Athletics, Swimming / Aquatics, Handball, Basketball, (Beach?) Volleyball and similar, the hosts should be able to have a stronger influence on the selection of sports in the Olympic Programme – even if that kicks “tradional” sports out of the list (at least for four years…). On the one hand, this would allow to have targeted infrastructure campaigns which have an enduring effect on the host city – on the other hand it could also prevent to have empty stands in Olympics. If your sports is not selected, you simply did not do your homework in that region. It could also open a one-time opportunity to certain sports – why not having e-Sports Olympic in the video game-addicted Tokio 2020 or reactivating Baseball / Softball just for the Los Angeles Olympics? The people there will love it and it will create true Olympic memories.
Similar Post: Thoughts on the Future of the Winter Olympics
This article has been selected as the 2nd most important article in 1st half 2018 in my Very Important Postings post.
Major external information source for this blog post: wikipedia.org