Georgia State University – Spreading Roots: New Convocation Center in Summerhill

Georgia State is constructing a new building on an underutilized lot south of Interstate 20 that once was home to a collection of mobile Department of Driver Services offices.

Travel north along Hank Aaron Drive from Center Parc Stadium, the home of Panthers football, and you’ll find the $85.2 million multiuse convocation center under construction at the corner of Fulton Street and Capitol Avenue. It’s expected to be complete in summer 2022.

Eventually, between the stadium and the convocation center, there will be a new baseball and softball complex situated on the site where Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium once stood — the stadium where the late Aaron famously broke Babe Ruth’s record with his 715th home run.

Georgia State Athletics Director Charlie Cobb says bringing baseball in from its eastern outpost in Panthersville and moving basketball from the downtown Sports Arena to the larger convocation center is the realization of former President Mark P. Becker’s vision for consolidating athletics closer to the downtown campus.

The university also recently finished renovating the football team’s former practice facility at 188 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., converting it into the new home of men’s and women’s soccer in time for both teams to host their first exhibition matches of the 2021 season.

“The idea is creating an athletics neighborhood,” Cobb says. “If we can bring the facilities where our kids practice and compete closer to campus, it gives us a chance to build fan support from our students, faculty and staff. I think on any campus, athletics plays a big part in student engagement and certainly making it convenient for kids to come to games and providing them an opportunity to enjoy the experience is something we’re about and really interested in accomplishing.”

With a capacity of 7,300 people for basketball, 7,500 for graduation events and 8,000 for concerts, the convocation center will far exceed the seating available in the Sports Arena, which was built in 1972 with a capacity of 3,500.

Cobb notes its location just off Atlanta’s major interstates makes it easily accessible to alumni and their families, sports fans and concertgoers, with limited traffic impact on the neighborhood, an area known as Summerhill that’s in the midst of a redevelopment renaissance.

Since Georgia State’s 2017 purchase of the Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field and the property that surrounds it, much of what sat as largely unused parking lots most of the year is also being transformed.

Along with converting the former baseball stadium into the college football venue now known as Center Parc Stadium, Georgia State’s partnership with Atlanta-based developer Carter & Associates has brought mixed-use residential and retail buildings to Summerhill. What was once a food desert will soon have a Publix grocery store. The convocation center, the football stadium and the baseball and softball park mean Georgia State will have a 24/7/365 presence in the neighborhood.

Written by Michael Davis (B.A. ’03) – Georgia State University Magazine
Illustration by John Dykes

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