PROGRESS: Looking to the future at Infinite Energy Center

www.gwinnettdailypost.com

By: Curt Yeomans

Published: February 25, 2017


What’s there now

The Infinite Energy Center campus currently includes an arena, a conference center and a performing arts center surrounded by a vast sea of parking spaces.

The center, which is owned by the county and managed by the Gwinnett Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, opened in 1992, and the 13,000-seat arena and the 21,600-square foot grand ballroom opened in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

The naming rights were sold to Infinite Energy in 2015 for $18 million.

The center hosts conventions, concerts by big name artists and home games for the Atlanta Gladiators and Georgia Swarm. The performing arts center includes a 702-seat theater. There is also a 50,000-square-foot Exhibit Hall and 23 versatile meeting rooms at the forum.

What’s next

County and Explore Gwinnett officials are working with North American Properties to conduct a massive overhaul of the property in an effort to make it more of a destination attraction.

Plans include the construction of an entertainment district designed to offer visitors a reason to “come early and stay late” when they come to the center for a conference or concert. The district would be built adjacent to the Infinite Energy Arena and the Infinite Energy Forum, in space that is currently used for parking. A parking deck would be built as well.

“Working with Explore Gwinnett and the GCVB team, we intend to advance the work that they’ve been doing for years, leveraging the Gwinnett brand,” North American Properties’ Mark Toro said. “We’re extremely enthusiastic about this opportunity and we look forward to working hand-in-glove with Chairman Nash and the county commission to deliver the ‘third place’ to the residents of Gwinnett County.”

A separate project, a full-service high-rise Marriott hotel, is also slated to be built on the property, bridging the forum and the arena. Officials also plan to expand of the Infinite Energy Forum’s conference space to compete for more conference business. The 2017 SPLOST approved last year included $67.3 million for the expansion.

Gwinnett County officials also purchased land adjacent to the center last year, to build an additional entrance to the facility on Meadow Church Road.

“While the Center is successful now, we believe it can be so much more,” County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said in her State of the County address earlier this month. “In fact, we see the Center as the catalyst to create a truly remarkable business and entertainment district unlike anything that exists in Gwinnett now.

“We believe in this vision so much that we have acquired additional property, contracted to build another entrance and set aside millions of dollars for public investment at the Center.”

Expected arrival

Explore Gwinnett Executive Director Lisa Anders said the hotel developers are in the final design and due diligence stages of planning the Marriott.

“While separate from the private (North American Properties) development, (the hotel) will be an important cornerstone of the overall complex,” she said.

Anders also said Explore Gwinnett is still finalizing its letter of intent with North American Properties, but she expected that would be done within the next 30 to 45 days. Once the letter of intent is in place, the process of setting a timeline for proceeding with work will begin.

“North American does not have a tenant list,” Anders said. “They have been working on due diligence, determining how the site will be broken up as far as the percentage of retail, office (and) residential.”

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“I think it is creating a downtown — or more aptly, a primary entertainment district — for Gwinnett. The Sugarloaf CID, as they begin to develop, will play a really important role in making this area more walkable and pedestrian friendly as well, which is another very important piece of the puzzle.” — Explore Gwinnett Executive Director Lisa Anders.