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Stone Mountain Tennis Center Revamp Plans Need Funding, Leadership

Consultant says project requires 'a champion.'

A consultant’s study about re-purposing the unused Stone Mountain Tennis Center and neighboring vacant Target store is only the beginning of a detailed process that would need strong visionary guidance to make the multi-million dollar plans a reality, say those involved in the recommendations.

“It is a complex project with several moving parts, and will require leadership - a "champion" to coordinate the various players involved. If that leadership emerges I think the concept is viable,” said Bill Tunnell, founding principal of Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates, through e-mail correspondence. The community design and architecture firm expects to complete and publish its final report in a few weeks.

The Evermore Community Improvement District gave the nod to accept the study at its Wednesday meeting.

“We’ll see if a developer can come and make something happen with it,” said Evermore CID interim executive director Wayne Hill.

Tunnell said the efforts would require around $51 million in public investments for the stadium and for transportation improvements; $158 million would come from private investment and is the projected market value of all development projected for the site, including hotels, office, retail, and residential, and including stadium and tennis facility values based on their present condition, Tunnell said.

Tunnell said the concept would involve the stadium becoming a multi-purpose sports and entertainment/performing arts venue. Tennis would be one of several sports showcased, he said.
 
The Target building's proposed rebirth would be as an indoor sports training facility, Tunnell said. There would be a separate tennis academy occupying the outdoor tennis courts and a pro shop, he added.

The tennis stadium was used in the 1996 summer Olympics, but over the years has become inactive. The Target store closed in 2010 after a nearly 11-year presence. Unfortunately, Hill said, its closing isn’t uncommon, given the current downturn.

“I'm not sure it has any different effect than any of the other empty businesses up the corridor,” he said. “We wish they were all full. I think it’s just a sign of the economy.”

The road ahead for re-purposing both sites has some hurdles to clear, Tunnell said. “The main challenges are (a) reaching consensus with all stakeholders, including the landowner, SMMA, about the highest and best use for the property, and (b) marshaling political will to fund the public improvements needed to make the project happen.”

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