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Academy wants campus
Gold Creek residents voice concerns
1 Academy pic
Joel Thompson, left, and Chris Williamson with Atlanta Sports Academy talk to residents during a recent meeting. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson Community News

Residents in the Gold Creek subdivision are not sold on an Atlanta-based sports academy’s plan to buy the Southern Catholic College campus.


“This was never intended to be a school,” said Diane Kulish, incoming vice president of the Gold Creek Homeowners Association. “It was a resort.”


Kulish and several other residents attended an information session put on Thursday by Atlanta Sports Academy, whose founders are in talks with the college to buy the property.


Terms of the potential deal have not been disclosed.


The academy is billed as a post-graduate, academic-athletic program for students wanting to earn sports scholarships to an accredited four-year college. It would offer baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse and soccer in 2011.


Residents focused their questions on the school’s funding, potential noise and how the academy’s proposed enrollment of 250 students would occupy their spare time in rural Dawson County.


“There’s nothing here in Dawsonville for them to do,” Kulish said.


Academy founder Damon Dawson said the campus, which sits on 100 acres adjacent to the defunct Gold Creek Golf Club about five miles north of Dawsonville, is ideal for the sports academy.


The current campus in downtown Atlanta is not conducive to the academy’s overall mission for success, he said.


“For 85 percent of these student athletes, they’re the first in their family to attend any type of college. Twenty percent had kids of their own,” Dawson said. “We’re changing a legacy, teaching them to set forth on their own path.”


Harry Curnell, director of student discipline, outlined the academy’s vigorous daily schedule that he said leaves little time for socialization.


“Our goal is to keep these kids motivated by combating the idle mind syndrome,” he said. “Sports is their ticket out of the projects and into college.”


Curnell also described the campus as “prime real estate.”


“Traditional prep programs, they’re in settings just like this,” he said. “You change the environment of the student athlete, so they can sharpen their skills, master their trade and focus on athletics.”


Joel Thompson, board member, said improvements such as building a gym and ball fields would be required to become fully operational.


“We have to have the proper sports facilities,” he said. “Our goal is to get this campus operational.”


Southern Catholic’s board of trustees voted earlier this month to place the campus on the market following ongoing financial troubles that forced the college to close last spring.


The college made several attempts to save the campus, including leasing the facilities to a separate athletic prep academy, which also experienced financial woes and was forced to leave.


Nick Bain, vice president of the board of trustees, said the campus is available and the property will be sold.


“We’re committed to making this happen,” he said, adding a lease option would protect the academy’s improvements to the property.


No official timeline was discussed at the meeting, though academy officials said they hoped to be on the new campus in 2011.