The latest sign that normalcy is tiptoeing back into Atlanta can be found at Centennial Olympic Park, which is now open to the general public—to a degree—for the first time since last summer.
According to a brief the Georgia World Congress Center Authority shared with downtown neighborhood groups last week, the marquee greenspace’s “north park” portion reopened Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
That section of the park, which includes playgrounds and large expanses of open grass, will continue to be accessible from Wednesdays to Sundays, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. The public restrooms in the north section, however, will remain locked.
Meanwhile, Centennial Olympic Park’s south section—home to the Fountain of Rings, an amphitheater, and a visitors center—will remain off-limits for the foreseeable future, according to GWCCA, the private venue’s operator.
The park’s playground has been closed since the onset of COVID-19, but most other sections remained open until late May, when the district became ground zero for Atlanta’s civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.
GWCCA maintains the park with funding culled from conventions and events—all of which were postponed or cancelled a year ago.
In early July, the authority announced the entire park would close indefinitely, citing the pandemic’s financial toll. Downtown residents organized a Change.org petition that called for re-opening the park weeks later, but the barricades remained standing through the fall and winter.
GWCCA officials told Urbanize Atlanta in January that maintaining the park while it’s open costs the authority roughly $85,000 per month—or more than twice the cost of upkeep when closed.
But as pandemic restrictions have eased and statistics improved, the GWCC has attracted more large-scale clients.
Recent and near-future events on the GWCC calendar have included the Cheersport 2021 National Championships, an international auto show, a CBD expo, a regional dance competition, Emory University’s forthcoming commencement, a firefighters convention, and the huge Capitol Hill Classic volleyball tourney, which relocated in late February from Washington D.C., where gatherings were more limited.
“With event activity returning to our campus, allowing limited public access is another positive step in our communities’ pandemic recovery,” GWCCA officials wrote in the memo last week. “We look forward to a full reopening in the near future and will continue to keep you informed of updates."
In other GWCC news, construction of a Pedestrian Mall recently began to swap street lanes for expanded walkways and outdoor seating near State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The two-phase project is expected to be finished by Christmas this year.
That project intends to improve the pedestrian experience from Centennial Olympic Park, through the GWCC campus, to the foot of a new Signia by Hilton hotel expected to break ground this month.
Standing about 30 stories over the Home Depot Backyard and Northside Drive, the shimmering Signia would be the most visible part of the GWCCA’s 2020 Vision master plan, a sweeping campus redo.
• Recent downtown news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)