LANIERLAND’S REVIVAL

County begins to assess concert venue facility

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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.