The Augusta Convention Center generated more than $9 million in direct visitor spending during its first year in business, according to operators of the downtown facility.
A dozen years in the making, the Reynolds Street center ended 2013 with 34 events that brought into the city 35,500 guests and an economic impact of $9.1 million, said Greg DeSandy, the director of sales and marketing of the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center.
Direct visitor spending is calculated by the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau as revenue collected from hotel rooms, dining, shopping, transportation and other guest expenditures.
The $38 million exhibit hall garnered $2.9 million in direct visitor spending six months after it opened Feb. 28. Smaller events were held in the first half of the year, with larger bookings scheduled in the latter months of 2013.
One of the largest events at the 38,000-square-foot center this year involved the intermedix Ironman 70.3 in September. The Olmstead Exhibit Hall served as headquarters for athlete check-in and other
Ironman exhibits and merchandise booths.
The triathlon brought about 6,000 people and $4 million in visitor spending into the city.
Another big event for the center was the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s TechNet show, which was new to the area. More than 1,100 hotel rooms in the city were booked for the September event.
“We’re very pleased with the bookings and the events that have taken place,” said convention bureau President and CEO Barry White. “We’ve seen tremendous response from
clients. They’re very impressed with the facility.”
DeSandy said the center has 16 confirmed bookings for 2014, which are expected to boost the local economy
by nearly $6.7 million and draw in nearly 13,000 attendees.
The facility, which was added to an existing ballroom and meeting space that adjoins the Marriott, was originally scheduled to open in January with a meeting of Georgia police chiefs. The group backed out after the Augusta Commission didn’t approve operating agreements for the center with Augusta Riverfront LLC, which runs the Marriott and shares management with Morris Communications, owner of The Augusta Chronicle.
Instead, a bridal expo was the first public event held at the center, on Feb. 24.
Voters approved funding of the project in 2005 by supporting a special purpose local option sales tax referendum. Since 2001, the convention bureau had contended that Augusta was losing events because of a lack of suitable meeting space. Construction of the center didn’t begin until 2010 because of commission disagreement.
In the year leading up to the center’s opening, commissioners quarreled over management agreements and terms for operating the convention center and parking garage.