A brand new entertainment district is taking shape on the 118-acre campus of what was previously known as the Infinite Energy Center. Gas South acquired Infinite Energy last year and along with a new name and a special plan, the entire arena area will now be called Gas South District and big changes are already in the works.
Families and others planning to attend the upcoming Gladiators or Swarm games, The Harlem Globetrotters, Hillsong United and Chris Tomlin concert or Disney on Ice events will be able to get a look at just how Gas South District is growing.
“We opened up our new expansion Nov. 1,” Gas South District CEO Stan Hall said. “It’s a beautiful facility and includes two new exhibit halls. It’s just a really high-end facility that when you walk into, you’re very surprised and impressed from an aesthetic value. That portion of our facilities is open. The convention center most people have known from the beginning--once we opened our expansion Nov. 1, we closed down every other part, including the grand ballroom. We’re completely renovating that whole space, which is mammoth. We want it to be up to the level of our new space from a design and aesthetic perspective. We hope to open up that space early November or December. By the end of this year, all of our convention space will be open. We’ll have more space than ever before. We’re excited about that.”
In addition to the new expansion and renovation at the site, an adjacent Westin Hotel is under construction and will be connected to the convention facility. Once completed, guests can stay at the hotel and attend convention events without ever having to go outside, a feature which has never been offered by the convention facility before.
“We had a significant pause on the hotel during COVID, but that hotel is back under way and has been at full speed since Nov. 1, to get that hotel up,” Hall said. “...It’s a big deal for us to have an upscale Westin brand.” Plans also call for the hotel to have a restaurant on its bottom level.
Not only did COVID slow down construction, but it took a huge toll on shows, concerts and other events where audiences had once filled arenas around the country.
“We finally believe we’re approaching a time to getting close to where we were prepandemic relative to events,” Hall said. “To be able to say that out loud is a phenomenal statement to make based on where we’ve been. During the height of the pandemic and moving into 2020 and 2021, we had a very difficult time here putting on events not only because of COVID, but all the instructions accompanying for large events like we put on here.
“The good news is, based on some anecdotal evidence of events we’ve had here the past eight or nine months, we’re starting to see what has brought us to today. Events are picking back up and attendance is picking back up. We’ve all heard the comments people make that they are so ready to get back to what they were doing prepandemic. We are seeing actual evidence now. We’ve had a couple of big shows in that time period where we were reaching those same numbers we were reaching prepandemic. We are approaching and getting close to that point. It’s a great thing to get back to doing business, back to where we were and getting our guests and our vendors all back on campus here. We’re very excited.”
The multi-purpose campus includes the 13,000-seat Gas South Arena; the 708-seat Gas South Theater; 23 meeting rooms; a 90,000-square-foot exhibit hall and a 21,600-square-foot Gas South Convention Center. The facilities accommodate a range of events from concerts, performances, meetings, trade shows, conventions, banquets and celebrations, including weddings.
Located at 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth, Gas South District is designed to become “one of Georgia’s premier live-work-play destinations,” Hall said earlier. Prior to COVID, plans for the campus included a mixeduse development; however, due to numerous factors those plans were put on pause just before November 2019.
“As disappointing as that was, little did we know what was coming with COVID,” Hall said. “If the project had started when we thought it was going to, we would have been well into the mass grading of the parking lot we have now. We would have had a mud hole for probably over a year if that had started. So, as disappointing as that was, in the long run, it was better than starting and stopping.”
Hall said Gas South District and its board of directors’ executive committee is “in conversations” with those interested in developing that space and he hopes to be able to release more information in the next 45-60 days. He said the concept remains the same with some multi-family and some office components, but designed to “truly be an entertainment district to support our arena and the people who come here for shows.”
“With our convention expansion, the hotel and getting the mixed-use up and running, people can come early for dinner and come for an event,” Hall said. “We want to make it more of a destination.”
While expansion and construction are under way, events continue with a full schedule of sports, concerts and shows. Fans can enjoy cheering on the Gladiators, the area’s professional minor league ice hockey team as they take on the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, the Florida Everblades and the Jacksonville Icemen in the next few weeks in Gas South Arena. The Georgia Swarm, a professional lacrosse team, which became the National Lacrosse League’s world champions in 2017, will take on the Rochester Nighthawks, the Halifax Thunderbirds, the Albany Firewolves, the Toronto Rock, the Buffalo
Bandits, the Panther City Lacrosse Club and the Philadelphia Wings in the next four weeks in the arena.
The Harlem Globetrotters and its Spread Game Tour come to Gas South Arena April 2. Hillsong United and Chris Tomlin perform April 13, and Disney On Ice will enjoy a four-day celebration April 21-24. Those are just a few of the top events planned for Gas South District in the next few weeks. Additional concerts, shows and other events are also scheduled. For complete details on all events, tickets and scheduling, visit https://www.gassouthdistrict.com/events.
For Marcia Powell, who is director of marketing and guest experience for Gas South District, these are exciting days. She was there when the arena first opened in February 2003, then took a break when her sons were small and then came back to work six years ago. As the arena celebrates its 19th anniversary this year, Powell is anticipating even greater days ahead for Gas South District.
“I do my job because I enjoy the joy it brings,” Powell said. “No matter the genre, the people who come onto our campus are usually excited about what they’re going to do. You faced 2020, when you didn’t have anybody in the building and then building it back up and starting to have those events on the calendar...It’s so exciting to have people back in the building coming to see something they’re looking forward to and having that happiness it brings.”