2nd event center offer made

The task force charged with planning the city's proposed $25 million exhibition center has put another offer on the table.

 

The proposal that the center's prospective operator submitted this week differs little from the one that Augusta Commissioners balked at in September.

That could make it a tough sell Tuesday, when the commission is scheduled to vote on the measure.

"If there are no significant adjustments, we may very well be in the same situation Tuesday," Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.

The revised operating agreement put forth by Augusta Riverfront LLC still has provisions for the city to pay $250,000 in operation funding and $100,000 in capital funding annually - adjusted for the cost of living each year - for the project, referred to as the trade, exhibit and event center, or TEE center.

Augusta Riverfront President Paul Simon on Friday said the plan is the best he can offer. Otherwise, he said, the company would lose money on the project.

"We can't do that at our expense," Mr. Simon said.

He said the only real changes to the proposal were defining terms such as 'revenue' and 'income.'

As in the previous proposal, the new plan recommends the TEE center be built on Augusta Riverfront's Reynolds Street property, which is adjacent to the convention center and the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites.

Under the deal, Augusta Riverfront's land would be deeded to the city.

The Reynolds Street site has been endorsed by the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Development Authority and the Development Authority of Richmond County.

The proposal also states that any costs over the city's $350,000 contribution would be covered by Augusta Riverfront. Any operational expenses under $250,000 would go into a capital reserve fund. Once the center breaks even for five consecutive years, the city would no longer make contributions.

CVB President Barry White, who served as a facilitator on the task force, said his board had not had a chance to review the proposal.

He would say only that the task force has "gone back, and negotiated. This is the best proposal that we can present to the city."

Mr. Simon said the land next to the Marriott is optimal, because of its proximity to the hotel and city-owned convention center.

Augusta Riverfront LLC is a subsidiary of Azalea Development Corp., which is headed by William S. Morris III, the chairman and CEO of Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

Reach Laura Youngs at (706) 823-3227 or laura.youngs@augustachronicle.com.

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