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Arena & Canal District

arena.jpgWhat's going on with the plans to build a new arena?

In November 2013, voters renewed the existing 1% Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for a six-year period. Included in the SPLOST proposal is up to $120 million for a new arena to replace the 40-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. Arena at the Civic Center.

The heart of the plan is an extension of downtown to the west by activating a large, mostly undeveloped area west of West Boundary Street into a vibrant new center of activity in Savannah’s core. We are calling it the Canal District. The Canal District will include the Arena and associated parking areas, but it will also include a renovation of the beautiful 1893 Savannah Water Works building into a new community facility, a new park roughly the size of Daffin Park, playing fields, and walking trails running along a landscaped Springfield Canal.

The Canal District will be connected to the Historic District and surrounding neighborhoods through a new multi-modal transportation network that will include new pedestrian walkways and trails, bike paths, rebuilt roads, canal network, and potentially a streetcar line. To learn more and see the vision plan, visit

The City has hired a consulting team with extensive experience with arena development to collect, analyze, understand, and compare information necessary to make critical decisions related to the arena and existing Civic Center sites. This study will determine the function, size, and program for a new arena that will serve the City and the surrounding communities.

Barrett Sports Group has also has completed more than 1,000 industry projects, including the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena, the new Atlanta Falcons stadium, and the Gwinnett arena project. 

The study is expect to be complete by the end of 2015, and will include recommendations on physical characteristics of the new arena, financial considerations, programmatic considerations, concessions operations and development opportunities around the site. These recommendations will drive key decisions, such as design.

In the meantime, six public-private advisory subcommittees have been meeting to assist in this early phase of the arena project. Each subcommittee consists of representatives from the local community as well as City staff members. Subcommittees meet regularly to discuss and research topics related to their area of focus. Recommendations in each area will be made to the City by the subcommittees at the end of this process. The subcommittees are:

  • Business Development
  • Community Education and Engagement
  • Greenway Planning
  • Mobility and Transportation
  • Programming Potential
  • Utilization of Current Civic Center

This is an exciting, but major, City endeavor, which will require sustained work over a six-year period. There will be plenty of opportunity for citizen input as we move along.