HISTORY

of The Classic Center
Downtown Athens, GA

A History of Innovation - raising westward from Athens' original center of commerce and trade on the North Oconee River, The Classic Center's vision is to connect our storied past while blazing the trail ahead.  

History of The Classic Center - Original Firehall building

A brief history of The Classic Center, northeast Georgia’s premier convention center and performing arts theatre:

  • 1912 - Fire Hall Number 1 is built to serve as the city's main station and central meeting place.
  • 1987 - Civic Center Study Committee is created to examine what type of public assembly facility best serves the community. It recommends an 18,000 square-foot ballroom, 28,000 square-foot exhibit hall, a 2,000-seat theatre, and the creation of an authority to oversee the operation, which all pass in a SPLOST referendum.
  • 1988 - The Georgia General Assembly passes a bill creating The Classic Center Authority. Architect James Polsheck is hired. The design calls for the Fire Hall's demolition, which the community rejects.
  • 1990-1993 - The Authority hires Rabun Hatch & Associates, Inc. (now Rabun Architects, Inc.) to revise the drawings to save the Fire Hall and includes a larger Theatre and exhibit space.
  • 1994 - Construction begins.
  • 1995 - Executive director Paul Cramer is hired. The 1st phase opens.
  • 1996 - The Theatre opens with the Broadway musical Cats.
  • 1999 - Voters approve SPLOST Package Number 5, which includes a parking facility and the 130 Foundry facility.
  • 2002 - The parking facility and 130 Foundry are completed.
  • 2004 - Citizens approve SPLOST Number 6 to construct the 130 Foundry lower level and a connection to 300 North Thomas Street.
  • 2006 - 130 Foundry and connection are completed.
  • 2010 - Voters approve SPLOST Number 7 to expand exhibit space to 56,000 square feet and build an 8,000-square-foot Atrium.
  • 2013 - Expansion is completed.
  • 2015 - The 22,000-square-foot covered 440 Foundry Pavilion is completed. Akins Ford of Winder partners with The Classic Center to present Akins Ford Arena at The Classic Center, which, in addition to being the home arena to the UGA Ice Dawgs and Classic City Rollergirls, can host events with arena-style seating for up to 2,000 attendees and concerts/shows for up to 5,000 attendees. Akins Ford Arena hosted its first major concert in April 2016 with a performance by Alabama Shakes.
  • 2020 - Voters approve SPLOST Number 11 to build The Classic Center Arena, a 5,500-seat facility expected to bring 125 new events annually. 
  • 2023 - The Classic Center undergoes a visual identity redesign, unveiling a new logo inspired by the stainless-steel structure, "The Nest" by artist Maureen Kelly, hanging in the Atrium.