Those in charge of filling up the new Augusta Convention Center have locked in 20 events so far, and the tourism impact is about $12 million. Most of those – 17 conventions – happen this year. And there’s seven more in the tentative booking stage.
Darryl Leech, the vice president and general manager of the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, said they used the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau metrics to come up with the economic impact of the conventions that have been booked.
The 38,000-square-foot addition has been under construction for more than two years and will hold its first event Feb. 24 with a bridal show, Brides & Bouquets.
The number of attendees that account for that $12 million visitor-spending impact is 23,000. Leech said the impact will go up another $10 million if the tentative events sign on the dotted line, and add 17,000 more people to what’s going to fill the convention center.
“What we were was a conference center. Now, we’re morphing into a convention center,’’ Leech said.
The biggest event coming to the Augusta Convention Center is the triathlon in September. Ironman will bring in 5,000 attendees and result in $4 million of that economic impact.
In previous years, Leech said, the Ironman was overrunning the space in the conference center.
‘‘Now that (convention) hall will handle them perfectly,’’ he said. “They use it for their expo and training meetings. That expo is big, they sell an enormous amount of product at that.”
Ironman will be back in 2014 and possibly 2015 and 2016. Leech said his team is in contact with people who need space for boat shows, car shows, roller derbies and karate tournaments – not the kind of stuff they could do in the ballrooms and meeting rooms. And not the kind of stuff that would go to James Brown Arena.
Conventions need flat floor space that’s convertible. The arena isn’t that convertible and is filled with stadium seating, Leech said.