Gala marks opening of convention center

By Justin Reedy

It was a party worthy of one of the state's largest convention centers, and the word that best described it had such an international flair no one could pronounce it.

About 2,000 businesspeople, officials and local residents crowded into the new Georgia International Convention Center in College Park Monday night for the facility's grand opening celebration.

Owners of the new convention center, who pride themselves on its international flair, dubbed the evening "Shaniziogeopolis," a word n in a fusion of many languages n meaning "fabulous opening of a world-class place."

The opulent celebration, which included live performances of world music, an "aviboreal" show featuring dancers, actors and aerialists, and a multi-course meal, welcomed the new $100 million facility to College Park.

The Georgia International Convention Center was displaced from its old location because it lay in the path of a fifth runway being constructed at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. Facility owners, in a partnership with Hartsfield and the city of College Park, turned a relocation into a rebirth n the new facility is 400,000 square feet, making it one of the largest convention centers in the state. The center also has 150,000 square feet of exhibit space; 18,000 square feet of meeting space; and the state's largest ballroom, a cavernous 40,000 square feet.

College Park officials are overjoyed at the facility's opening, and didn't bother to hide that fact during the grand opening.

"This evening is a one of a kind event," Mayor Jack Longino told the assembled crowd.

In addition to the College Park City Council, Hartsfield officials and the convention center owners, Longino heaped praise on George Glaze, the owner's representative for the city during the project.

"(Because of Glaze's work) the project was completed under budget and two months ahead of schedule," Longino said.

Business leaders from the airport area are also excited about what the GICC will mean to them.

Gay Haynes, the director of marketing for the Atlanta Airport Hilton, is confident that the GICC will be a huge benefit to hotels and other businesses near the airport.

"They could really bring us business," said Haynes, who was at Monday's event. "We want to work to promote the GICC because it helps bring us customers, and vice-versa. It's a great situation, because it works both ways."

Mark Brennan, the co-owner and general manager of The Brake Pad Restaurant near the new convention center, 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."