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Center to open to community

By Justin Reedy

A new hotel and convention center near the Atlanta airport that should have a huge impact on the local economy will open its doors to the community today.

The Georgia International Convention Center at Camp Creek Parkway and Ga. Highway 29 in College Park is holding a community day open house Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. The hotel operation was displaced from its old location because it lay in the path of a fifth runway being constructed at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

Saturday's community event, which is sponsored by Chick-fil-A and Coca-Cola, will include refreshments, local entertainment and tours of the new center. The $100-million, 400,000-square-foot convention facility – one of the largest in the state – will have its grand opening next week.

For local business owners and industry leaders, the Georgia International Convention Center represents a major investment in the community in and around Hartsfield.

Mark Brennan, the co-owner and general manager of The Brake Pad Restaurant near the new hotel in College Park, thinks the center will help out the area economy by bringing in hotel guests and convention goers.

"We're excited," Brennan said. "It's going to bring a lot of people into the neighborhood. We're looking forward to getting some customers from there."

The project represents a partnership between the city of College Park, Hartsfield and the convention center owners. Keeping the facility around the airport will have a positive effect on the local economy, according to John Hollis Allen, chairman of the College Park Business and Industrial Development Authority.

"This is the most significant economic development catalyst that College Park has had since Hartsfield International Airport was built," Allen said.

"It's already driving a resurgence of our downtown and our residential areas, and is taking us out of the shadow of Hartsfield and into the spotlight," Allen said.

Hartsfield General Manager Ben DeCosta pointed out that the center will only help to increase the already enormous economic impact felt in Atlanta from the airport.

"The Georgia International Convention Center is a perfect example of the economic development benefits of being in proximity to the busiest airport in the world," DeCosta said. "The convention center will help to spawn, as does the airport, an excellent structure of hotel rooms for visitors to the city. It will create jobs and expand the already $17 billion economic impact from Hartsfield every year. The convention center, hotels, and the airport are a good family of public institutions that serve the public and local residents."

Saturday's community event will include a dedication ceremony at 3:15 p.m. featuring College Park Mayor Jack Longino.

For more information about the open house, call (770) 907-3096.