ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — The farmer’s market in downtown Athens will undergo renovations to upgrade its space as the city grows bigger and bigger.

The area will soon be a multi-use site with everything from vendor and entertainment space to places for children’s activities. The changes will take place over the next two years.

The market started in 1986, but was a home for farmers long before then.

“This site is such a unique asset to downtown Athens and to Limestone County,” said Tere Richardson, executive director of Athens Main Street. “It’s been a farming concern for over a hundred years and this market was born in 1986. It needs some love and attention.”

The land the market currently sits on will be named after longtime community leader Doug Gates, who people say had a passion for serving and helping others and making a difference in the Athens community.

Before passing away in 2022, people say he had a vision for the farmers market and was an active member with Athens Main Street. The site will be known as Doug Gates Park.

“He’d be thrilled,” said Betsy Gates, Doug’s widow. “He would just probably think of more things to do. He was always out there and wanted to make Athens a wonderful place to live in for us and everyone else.”

Farmers say the market’s success has been a good thing for them.

“It’s caused us a lot more work because we raise everything,” said Danny and Pam Greg with Sweetgrass Farm. “It’s a commitment to come and have products to sale and so it’s just more work, but that’s why we’re doing it.”

While the overall updates for the park are set for 2024, the 2023 season will still see some changes like newly painted vendor tables, landscaping, and even more vendors.