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County begins to assess concert venue facility

Dolly Parton has performed at the Lanierland Music Park. Lanier Music Park’s Facebook page. (click for larger version)

Johnny Cash performed at the Lanierland concert venue. Lanier Music Park’s Facebook page. (click for larger version)

Ray Stevens plays the family-friendly Lanierland Music Park concert venue. Lanier Music Park’s Facebook page. (click for larger version)

Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart at Lanierland Music Park. Lanier Music Park’s Facebook page. (click for larger version)
June 24, 2013
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — For many, it was a place that helped define country music and it was located right here in north Forsyth County.

Lanierland had the big-tent, family feel that defines country music. With its sawdust floor, cow pasture parking and its location — north of Jot-Em-Down Road — this was a place country music legends played.

But the venue closed in 2006, leaving many in the county with a longing for the good old days.

In 2009, the Forsyth County Commission bought the 109 acres of land for $4.7 million with parks and greenspace bonds and planned to someday create active recreation space with ball fields in that land.

Phase I of the master plan calls for developing about 45 acres and contains associated uses of a concert venue, a BMX facility originally planned for Eagles Beak Park, rectangle fields, playground, community center and maintenance facility. Phase II calls for baseball diamond fields, tennis courts and nature trails.

"I feel like Lanierland has been like an abused child…It's all run-down, it's awful," said Forsyth County Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, whose family ran the concert venue for 36 years. "Before we go in and tear out the building, I want to see if it's feasible and can make money for the county."

More recently, commissioners took steps to study the concert venue location. Although the entire scope is not yet known, there is a possibility concerts could one day be held here.

"We've talked about concerts, comedy shows, beauty pageants to weddings," Jones Mills said of the potential uses the property's future holds.

Right now, engineers and county leaders want to determine if it is a feasible undertaking to renovate the concert venue building.

Jones Mills said the question engineers must first answer is whether the building is in good enough shape to use.

AMEC Environment and Infrastructure of Kennesaw has been working with the county to answer this question.

Engineers want to know whether the building, which once hosted country concerts for about 4,000 attendees, needs additional repairs and will make a recommendation to commissioners.

The estimated cost of the repairs is still unknown, but an assessment of the building is about $8,000, said Forsyth County Procurement Director Donna Kukarola.

Also under consideration are parking spaces for the facility and roads planned for the area.

"I have met with people in the community and they really want a community building," Jones Mills said. "We're still waiting to get final numbers back to see exactly what can go in phase I."

Could Lanierland's concert venue be used for concerts? Perhaps.

This would be welcome news to Greg and Sandy Peck, of McDonough, Ga. They saw Vince Gill there many years ago.

"We would certainly love to come back," Greg told the Forsyth Herald.

Country legends George Jones, Randy Travis and the Oak Ridge Boys have also graced the Lanierland stage in its heyday.

James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, remembers attending shows there.

McCoy said some homework still needs to be done for the appropriate next steps of the future of Lanierland.

"It's an important part of our community and it has been and we should be thoughtful of the next steps," McCoy said. "What is the feasibility and best use of that facility, I don't think anybody knows that at this point."

This article was published in the June 26 issue of the Forsyth Herald.

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  1. report print email
    make it a sound stage, etc... $$ from films in GA
    June 27, 2013 | 11:52 AM

    Make it into a major sound stage - All the Screen Gems studios were filled when Ironman3 wanted to film here but could not accommodate. There is 1 sound stages being built south of Atlanta, and 1 near Savannah, but there is nothing north of Atlanta. just a thought for bringing revenue

  2. report print email
    Go Cindy!
    June 27, 2013 | 07:46 PM

    Many of us grew up going to the "Music Park," and have nothing but fond memories of the place. With all the local talent and names coming up through the musical ranks, I think it would be a great opportunity to put the music park back to use. Concert attendance for popular bands will always draw a crowd. I'd go!

  3. report print email
    Lanierland Music Park
    June 27, 2013 | 10:35 PM

    I saw Conway Tweety perform there years ago. It's a shame that it ever closed, I would love to see it opened again.

    Judy Manning
    Cave Spring
  4. report print email
    June 27, 2013 | 11:01 PM

    Attended many many shows. Was a season ticket holder. With the right talent booked, Lanierland could do good. Would love for the first show to be Merle Haggard.

    David Tench
    Northeast GA
  5. report print email
    June 28, 2013 | 10:32 AM

    Saw many shows @ Lanierland including Kenny Rogers at the time The Gambler was just coming out and also saw the late,great Marty Robbins there many moons ago.

    S. Black
  6. report print email
    June 28, 2013 | 12:53 PM

    I attended many shows at Lanierland. We attended the last show before it closed down. Was disappointed to see it close. Would Love to see it open back up........

    Yvonne Byars Walker
    Waleska, GA
  7. report print email
    June 29, 2013 | 07:00 PM

    I love Lanierland and have many fond memories of the place. But, the place lost money for years and now Cindy wants to use county money to re-open it?

    Cindy was the manager all while it lost money so she knows it was a failing business. I don't know why she thinks we want to pay the losses now.

    Come on Cindy, don't use your office to feather your own nest and the nests of your family. Your family owns property all around there and we did not elect you to use your office to help them. We want you to help the county.

    Jot-em Down
  8. report print email
    Read the Story
    July 04, 2013 | 10:18 PM

    R - you need to actually read the story. Cindy nor the county is opening the concert venue back up. The county purchased the former Lanierland site back in 2009 as part of the park and green space bond. Earlier this year, the BOC approved a plan to make the property into an active park with ball fields, walking trails, etc.. The old concert venue is being looked at as a possible activity center which "might" include the opportunity to have concerts. This would be so the county could generate revenue just as they do with rentals and other activities at the rec centers at other parks.

    You might also know that Cindy's family never owned Lanierland nor do they own any of the land around it. The property was owned by the Samples family and leased to the Jones' to operate the concert venue. In 2009 the county purchased it, long before Cindy took office. Lanierland was not losing money nor was it a failing business. The family merely decided to retire and thus closed the business. Being from the Jot Em Down area, you should know that. Cindy is not using her office to help her family. Anything that happens with that property now is to the benefit of the county - who owns it - and all Cindy is doing is making sure the park preserves some of the history of the area. If the structure can be salvaged and generate revenue for the county instead of tearing it down and spending more money on a rec center, then she is doing her job.

  9. report print email
    visited music several times in 70s
    October 27, 2013 | 10:59 PM

    my former and late xwife visited lanierland seveal times in the mid 70s she was a dis jocky at a local radio station in our area.. Conway titty was peforming one night at lanierland . we ask the staff of lanierland for a interview with Conway and to record it on tape for airplay on radio.. the staff of lanierland and conways management was so kind in granting her that request. the interview took place after Conway got done signing autografts at 3:00 AM THAT MORNING.. never will forgot that moment in lanierland history.. so many other memories . to many to mention now.. will mention hugh jarret of the jordanaires a real class act as promoter and mc at lanierland please please preserve this place for future generations to enjoy and make many more happy memories.. hated to see is close but would love to see it reopen plus all the other actives it will provide.. GO LANIERLAND.. GO LANIERLAND .. YOU GOT MY SUPPORT FROM SHELBY NORTH CAROLINA HOME OF THE NEWLY OPENED DON GIBSON THEATHER.. CHARLES W. ELLIS....

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