Georgia State’s Summerhill project is already an overwhelming success

Student-athletes have loved their time in Summerhill––it’s allowed them an opportunity to build relationships off the court with teammates. Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

Over the last few years, Georgia State’s students have seen new developments come into fruition, with Summerhill serving as the latest to reconstruct residences. 

Photo by Harry Wyman | The Signal

As the official home for Georgia State athletics and its student-athletes, 565 Hank, named after the Atlanta Braves great Hank Aaron, will join Hedgewood and Aspen Heights in an area that has been rebuilt from the ground up. People often called it a deserted spot. There wasn’t much to do after students got off the shuttle, and, as Mike Holmes, Georgia State’s associate athletic director, remembers, that adjective summed it up well.

“When the Braves weren’t playing, no one really wanted to come south of I-20,” Holmes said. “It wasn’t a desirable place to be.”

Three years later, Summerhill is quite the opposite.

Junior’s Pizza, Pete’s Hot Dogs and Wood’s Chapel BBQ are a few restaurants that have students and alumni coming back wanting more. No matter what someone’s looking for, they’ll leave Summerhill satisfied with a full stomach and a view that looked abandoned just four years ago. In a society where many people need immediate responses, Holmes’ mantra is “people want things immediately.” 

“This is a seven-to-ten-year commitment. All this is going to get done,” Holmes said. “People [were unsure if the project would be successful]. I think people can see now it’s all happening.”

The area will include a Publix in late-2022 to join the Center Parc Credit Union–– Georgia State’s most prominent partner on the project–– that sits on Hank Aaron Avenue. The grocery store could serve as the convenience to everyone, from students to staff members either looking to build a quick lunch or stop and get a chicken tender sub from the deli. 

Subsequently, Georgia State’s precarious situation left them needing more facilities. The Convocation Center, which should finish next year, wasn’t even part of the school’s Turner Field purchase. They bought the 6.5-acre plot that was a Department of Driver Services later in a separate transaction.

Georgia State bought Turner Field for $22.8 million in late-2016 when the team was still making a name for themselves in the Sun Belt Conference. At the time, there wasn’t much of an identity for the team. They had just come off a 3-9 season and were nowhere close to competing with the Sun Belt’s top programs. Today, Shawn Elliott has become a bowl game regular, with four in the last five years.

Yet, the Convocation Center could emerge as the athletics department’s top facility when it begins hosting basketball games and other events in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Moreover, from a student-athlete perspective, choosing a place to live is about convenience as well. Georgia State long snapper Charlie Flint is one of the many Panthers who moved to the Summerhill area.

“I had a house with my teammates before Aspen was even built, so I already kind of knew the appeal of living close,” Flint said. “And I think other people are starting to figure it out. The location is getting nicer, and it’s a lot more accessible and convenient to live close.”

As the area became more appealing, Flint and his friends took notice and saw that the “all-around aspect was obviously an eye-catcher for everybody.” Flint, who earned a spot on the Spring 2021 President’s List, was blown away by the final product. He echoed Holmes’ thoughts on the area needing time to be built and not becoming an overnight success. 

The area could draw more fans to attend Georgia State sporting events in the room with just a short walk from their front doors to the Center Parc Stadium Gates. Over the last few years, Flint noted, students didn’t attend the home games. The school hasn’t seen a big turnout in their early years, but the redshirt senior sees a change coming soon.

“In the beginning [of construction], one of the problems was attendance. [Georgia State] offered free shuttles for students on campus, but it still just wasn’t convenient for students to come to games,” Flint said. “With these new hundreds and hundreds of apartment rooms for students in general, it would absolutely, 100% raise attendance.”

The Panthers kick off their season on Sept. 4 against the Army Black Knights from Center Parc Stadium, right around the corner from Summerhill.