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Oct. 16, 2018
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Conference center a possibility at Lanier Islands

By Pamela A. Keene
 
The possibility of building a conference center at Lanier Islands is one step closer to reality. Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority, the state group that oversees Lanier Islands, approved the issuance of $4.5 million in bonds to begin a study, assessment and possible designs for a conference center at the resort.
 
“This first phase will include hiring an agency to study the market feasibly of a new conference center,” said Bill Donohue, LLIDA executive director. “We will also be evaluating the project and possibility studying some design concepts as part of the process.”
 
Currently, one hotel/conference center – Legacy Lodge – operates at Lanier Islands. The former PineIsle Hotel, the island’s original hotel property, opened in the mid-1970s and operated through 2005. In the late 1980s, a second hotel was built as Emerald Pointe Hotel and Conference Center. 
 
Lake Lanier Islands Management Company, under the leadership of Virgil Williams, acquired the lease operate Lanier Islands from LLIDA in 2005. In 2008 the former PineIsle Hotel and its amenities, including the tennis courts and swimming pool, were demolished. 
 
Since the Williams family took over operations, LLI Management has invested tens of millions of dollars in the resort, from renovating Legacy Lodge and Conference Center to building the six freestanding Legacy villas with private concierge service. The island’s infrastructure has been upgraded; a 350,000-gallon water treatment plant opened in 2010 at the cost of $15 million. The management company has improved roads, bridges and sidewalks. It opened Sunset Cove in 2010; LanierWorld opened in 2011. LLIM added docks and a marina as well.
 
In the fall of 2016, LLIDA and LLI Management issued a request for bids for a similar study chiefly focused on the feasibility of developing a technology-focused conference center at the resort. That study was completed.
 
“The thought was to find out if there was demand, especially up the Georgia 400 corridor, for a technology-focused training/conference center here, especially with all the research universities, such as Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia, nearby,” Donohue said. “The study showed that most technology training takes place at dedicated facilities, especially in California, and that there was not much demand.” 
 
“This study will be more broad-based, looking at the possibility of a 300- 400-room hotel with ample meeting space and amenities to compete in this marketplace,” Donohue explained. 
 
Donohue said that he expects the board to make its selection within the next several months. The funding will be available as of August 1 for the study. “With the new recreational partnership with Safe Harbor Development out of Knoxville, this is a good time to have these discussion,” he said. “We want to have some hard facts and numbers to share with the public and possible investors.” 
 
LLIDA was formed in 1962 to develop, operate and maintain the islands for recreational purposes as a sub-lessee from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The DNR is the direct lease holder from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Posted online 5/29/18
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