Where it all started

The Classic Center is operated as an independent agency, and the facilities are owned by Athens-Clarke County. From the get-go, The Classic Center was conceptually designed to benefit the community and operates under The Classic Center Authority (CCA), a political subdivision of the state government. The CCA was created by a bill passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 1988, and its board of directors is appointed by the Athens-Clarke County Commission.

Fun Facts

The signature Firehall almost wasn’t part of the facility.

The original design for the facility was proposed to include a ballroom, exhibit hall, and theatre. The initial architectural drawings called for the Firehall, built in 1912 as Athens’ original downtown fire station, to be demolished and replaced with a new facility. Because of the Firehall’s enormous historical significance, plans to raze it was dismissed, and instead, it became a focal point of the facility’s new design. The main entrance to The Classic Center that greets visitors heading into the building leads straight into the refurbished Firehall building, now home to Visit Athens. The Firehall’s “lookout tower,” which you can still see on the roof of the main entrance, perfectly represents The Classic Center’s purpose of serving the community mixed with the historical significance of its original building site. The “lookout tower” was used to look over the town to spot a fire before the invention of fire alarm systems and cell phones to dial 911. This structural building piece was the focal point of the venue’s original logo.

The Classic Center has only had one executive director.

Paul Cramer was hired as the executive director of The Classic Center in 1995. He moved his family from Upstate New York to take the position at The Classic Center. Having steady leadership for 28 years has created consistency in the vision for the facility that only some organizations experience. With the driving idea to make Athens-Clarke County a great place to live and generate positive economic impact, Mr. Cramer has constantly asked, “What’s the best way to serve the community?” and acted accordingly.


The Classic Center has undergone five expansions/ renovations.

As the needs and interests of Athens have changed, so has The Classic Center. Apart from its original creation, The Classic Center-related upgrades have appeared on five SPLOST bills, a funding source that ties back to the facility’s government roots. These upgrades included incorporating the 130 Foundry building and Theatre renovation in 2005, creating an auto-bridge and parking deck in 2000, closing the courtyard to create the Atrium in 2011, various expansions on current spaces, and, most recently, The Classic Center Arena in 2020, which is set to open in 2024, each new creation has generated benefits for the local community, whether cultural or economic. For example, in March 2023, The Classic Center hosted TSA, bringing 3000 students who fill our hotels, restaurants, and shops throughout Downtown Athens. The Classic Center hosts events like TSA around 70 times a year for three days, each filling 200 event days, elevating business for the entire community. In total, we drive over 400,000 attendees to the Downtown area. These event days generate demand for more hotel room nights and positively impact spending from visitors in local shops and restaurants. It has also allowed Akins Ford of Winder to partner with The Classic Center to present Akins Ford Arena at The Classic Center, the home venue for the UGA Ice Dawgs hockey team, a fan-favorite for visitors and locals alike.

The Classic Center is a history of innovation.

While The Classic Center provides an impressive 350,000+ sq. ft. of versatile, rentable space that can host anything from a wedding to a local dance competition to a conference to a sporting event, it’s more than just a collection of buildings. The Classic Center Cultural Foundation, the nonprofit branch of the facility, offers awards over $60,000 in grants and annual hospitality education, performing, and visual arts scholarships, showcases rotating art galleries, and has multiple types of memberships based on interest. In addition, the community outreach component focuses on adult workforce development and student learning lab opportunities. After almost 30 years of existence, The Classic Center has become a community pillar because of its commitment to its three core values, around which everything that happens in the buildings is based – hospitality, teamwork, and servant-style leadership. Thank you to the community for the generous support of The Classic Center and for helping us continue to elevate hospitality and the arts!