SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A project many years in the making, Savannah city leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday to mark the start of a new $165 million arena to attract entertainment and sporting events.
"Monumental" and "historic" are the two words many used to describe the location of the project. It's being built on the city's westside and is the largest public investment that area has seen in decades.
Wearing hard hats and holding shovels, the mayor and city aldermen christened the start of the new arena.
"It will change the face of Savannah forever. It will shift everything to the west, away from downtown in the sense that we are going to develop areas that have never been developed,” Savannah Mayor Eddie DeLoach said.
“We are leveraging SPLOST funds for a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue that we deserve,” District 1 Alderman Van Johnson said.
The arena is a $165 million city investment on Savannah’s west side at the corner of West Gwinnett and Stiles streets, an area known as the Canal District.
The location has long been a source of controversy. One that former Savannah City Manager Michael Brown spoke to during the ceremony.
"Not only was this area for most of the city's history not seen as a desirable area, but it was not a desirable area. It was not only marginalized, it was absolutely avoided,” Brown said.
Now, it's positioned to become an attraction. Something that neighborhood leaders say is welcome.
"I think it will be very good for our neighborhood and help us develop in some areas that we haven't developed before,” West Savannah Neighborhood Organization President Marsha Buford said.
Over the next few weeks, contractors will work to clear the land and bring water and sewage utilities on site.
The new arena is expected to open in February of 2022.
The city of Savannah will hold a community celebration on Saturday, Sept. 14. The event will include food, games, music, information, feedback booths, and neighborhood displays. It will take place at the City Lot at 1100 West Gwinnett Street from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
For more information about Savannah’s new arena, click here.