To quickly find what’s known as “ruin porn,” Google “abandoned Olympic facilities” and behold one image after another of desolate, crumbling, graffiti-scarred stadiums and other venues from Sarajevo, Athens, and Beijing to Rio and beyond.
For the most part, the City of Atlanta's physical Olympics legacy is different.
Twenty-five years ago this month, Atlanta basked in a global spotlight as the Centennial Olympic Games unfolded. Not every aspect of those Games was pretty or smoothly operated, but the Olympics boosted Atlanta’s profile and helped usher in an investment (and population) boom that’s changed the city forever.
But what became of all those venues where athletes dazzled the world for 17 days in the summer of 1996? The majority, it turns out, are not only still standing but have recently undergone upgrades.
Here’s a quick recap, a quarter-century later:
1. CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC STADIUM
755 Hank Aaron Drive SE
Designed by Atlanta-based firms including Rosser International and Heery International, the Olympic Stadium staged Opening and Closing Ceremonies, track and field events, and played host to several iconic moments, including Muhammad Ali’s torch-lighting and Michael Johnson’s two gold-medal sprints. It was designed to be halved into the Braves’ Turner Field baseball park, and it operated as such for two decades, until the fall of 2016.
Since the Braves decamped for the 'burbs, the venue has been reborn as Georgia State University’s football coliseum (Center Parc Stadium), and a setting for massive concerts, as mixed-use development explodes in the Summerhill neighborhood around it.
2. CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK
285 Andrew Young International Boulevard NW
The social nucleus of the 1996 Games remains that for downtown Atlanta today.
Transformed from a blighted district, Centennial Olympic Park served as the central gathering spot for Olympics visitors; while at night, the park squirmed with locals and so many guests enjoying music and the overall energy inherent in hosting the planet.
Now home to the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, and other attractions, including a fountain shaped like Olympic rings, the park underwent a multi-million expansion three years ago that added acreage and new features. It remains the Games' most lasting and functional intown legacy—and proud of it.
3. GEORGIA WORLD CONGRESS CENTER (GWCC)
285 Andrew Young International Boulevard NW
Atlanta’s sprawling downtown convention center played host to a range of indoor sporting events during the Olympics, including wrestling, fencing, handball, judo, pentathlon shooting, table tennis, and weightlifting.
An ongoing GWCC expansion is adding a high-rise Signia by Hilton hotel, an $18-million transportation hub, and generally opening the facility’s south end up for better pedestrian use.
4. MCAULEY AQUATIC CENTER
750 Ferst Drive
Specially built for the Olympics, this Midtown aquatics facility on the campus of Georgia Tech hosted all swimming and diving events. Following a recent $45-million expansion, it functions today as part of the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center, including both the aquatic center and student recreation center.
In 2016, the facility was officially renamed McAuley Aquatic Center to honor James Herbert “Herb” McAuley, a 1947 electrical engineering grad from Tech and champion swimmer.
5. ALEXANDER MEMORIAL COLISEUM
965 North Avenue NW
Twenty-five years ago, Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavilion basketball arena—then known as Alexander Memorial Coliseum—staged all boxing events during the Atlanta Olympics. The facility was overhauled and expanded nine years ago and plays host to Yellow Jackets hoops today.
6. FRANK L. FORBES ARENA
830 Westview Drive SW
Built for the Olympics, this Morehouse College campus fixture hosted the early rounds of basketball during the 1996 Games. The Moody Noland-designed arena is home to Morehouse's basketball team today.
7. GSU SPORTS ARENA
125 Decatur Street SE
Currently home to the Georgia State University Panthers basketball and volleyball teams—but soon to be replaced by the college’s $85-million convocation center down the street—the GSU Sports Arena hosted badminton during the Olympics.
8. ALONZO HERNDON STADIUM
Located on the campus of historic Morris Brown College at the Atlanta University Center, this 15,000-seat venue played host to the Olympics' field hockey final game and other events.
Unfortunately the stadium, like other buildings on the HBCU campus, has been abandoned and deteriorating for years, as the school has struggled with accreditation and funding woes. The Morris Brown football program, which once held games there, was cut in 2002.
Three iconic downtown venues hosted events during the 1996 Olympic Games but have since been replaced with new stadiums. They are:
The 1960s Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, once home of both the Atlanta Braves and Falcons, coexisted for a summer beside the Olympic Stadium—and hosted Olympics baseball—before its demolition.
Only the outfield wall where Hank Aaron hammered his famous 715th homer remains standing today. Georgia State plans to build its baseball park there soon.
Before meeting its maker in 2019, the Georgia Dome hosted basketball, gymnastics (including Kerri Strug’s legendary landing), and handball during the Olympics.
The Omni Coliseum, the Atlanta Hawks' roost completed in 1972, served as home of the volleyball indoor final during the Olympics. That facility was demolished in 1997 to make way for today’s State Farm Arena.
And just east of Atlanta, the abandoned Stone Mountain Tennis Center where Andre Agassi struck gold had definitely seen better days before it was demolished in 2017. Gwinnett County government is in negotiations with Fuqua Development for a potential $100-million redevelopment of that property.
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