Ga. Methodists will meet in Athens in 2013, -14

Saturday, June 18, 2011 11:26 AM
Last updated 11:36 AM
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 ATHENS, Ga. -- Classic Center officials breathed a sigh of relief Friday afternoon after members of the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to return to Athens in 2013 and 2014.

The Methodist group, which brings about 3,000 people to Athens for the multiday meeting, has held the annual event at the Classic Center 12 out of the past 13 years and already had planned to return next year. Poor service the one year the conference met in Augusta has kept the annual meeting from returning to east central Georgia.

Conference members vote every two years on where they will hold their annual conference, which provides an economic boost during a traditionally slow time of year in Athens. Convention attendees each contribute about $200 a day in direct spending, said Chuck Jones, director of the Athens Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Methodist conference, however, had outgrown the Classic Center's existing space and was going to have to find another location if the complex wasn't expanded.

Athens-Clarke voters last November approved spending $25 million in sales tax revenue to expand the Classic Center to accommodate large conventions like the Methodists.

Construction on the expansion could begin as soon as August, but work will be suspended next June when the Methodists return for their 2012 conference, Classic Center officials said.

Methodist Conference attendees voted late Friday afternoon on the recommendation by its host committee to return to Athens in 2013 and 2014, said Maureen Baker, Classic Center sales director.

"We were all pretty busy working, but anxiously awaiting the vote, and were really, really pleased with the outcome," Baker said. "We appreciate the confidence they have placed in us by extending (the conference) to Athens two more years."

Conference attendees provided "rave reviews" of Athens restaurants and hotels, a big key in keeping the conference here, Baker said.

"It's all of Athens, not just the Classic Center that brings them back," she said.

2002 Methodist meeting an Augusta disaster

AUGUSTA -- When the four-day Methodist conference took place in Augusta earlier in the decade, it brought in 2,500 delegates and had an estimated economic impact of $2.5 million.

In June 2002, delegates arrived at Civic Center - since renamed the James Brown Arena - to find meeting rooms and coliseum space filthy and littered with trash. The group also complained of rude catering staff, late meals and bathrooms being dirty and sometimes non-functional. Conference volunteers had to help serve food and beverages.

Later that month the Coliseum Authority voted 6-4 to fire General Manager Reggie Williams over the debacle and to refund the Methodists the balance of a $54,000 civic center bill.

However, Methodist officials said they had lost confidence in the civic center's leadership and opted to move to Athens. The conference has been held there ever since.

-- Augusta Chronicle archives

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ECDanes
1
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ECDanes 06/18/11 - 11:09 am
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Hey, aren't we building a

Hey, aren't we building a brand spanking new TEE Center to draw groups like The Methodists to Augusta? What happened? Sounds like we should have put some of that money into customer service training.

bdouglas
5777
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bdouglas 06/18/11 - 12:42 pm
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ECDanes: That would be a

ECDanes: That would be a whole lot of faith (no pun intended) for them to put into a facility that isn't finished with management and staff that are mostly unselected and untested thus far. Would make much more sense for them to wait and see what other folks have to say about the TEE Center before coming back. Not to mention this is the *North* GA Methodist group. A bit closer to the middle of their territory to choose Athens.

broad street narrow mind
348
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broad street narrow mind 06/18/11 - 12:52 pm
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it's all of athens, not just
Unpublished

it's all of athens, not just the convetion center that keeps them coming back. isn't that kind of what we all were shouting during the tee center upgrade- that it's not worth a hundred million dollar investment when, like marion willaims said, all there is to do at night is go the the huddle house?

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 06/18/11 - 02:37 pm
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More like the empTEE

More like the empTEE center...

countyman
21630
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countyman 06/18/11 - 03:06 pm
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Broad street. The TEE Center

Broad street. The TEE Center is only $38 million and not $100 million..

BevBoudreaux
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BevBoudreaux 06/18/11 - 03:25 pm
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Well this is not a surprise

Well this is not a surprise to me. Downtown Athens just has much more to offer than downtown Augusta. There is just no comparison. I have attended several functions at their Classic Center and they have all been wonderful. Plus you walk right outside and you have a thriving downtown. So many restaurants and funky little shops and a great variety of bars and lounges too. Art galleries, coffee houses, and so on. And what's nice is that in Athens, they have so many locally owned businesses rather than chains. It's hard to find an empty dead space in downtown Athens. Then you have the University just a few blocks away with lots to see there. I know if I were a convention planner and had a choice of Augusta or Athens, there would be no contest, definitely Athens. When you go to these meetings you want to have interesting things to see and do nearby and downtown Augusta just doesn't offer enough to pull people in. Savannah is also nice. I went to a function at their convention center on that Island across from River St. It was really nice. You could take a water taxi across the river and you were right in the heart of River Street and there was so much to see and do. What much is there to do in Augusta besided go to the mall and eat at some chain restaurant out on Washington Rd?

wondersnevercease
9218
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wondersnevercease 06/18/11 - 03:53 pm
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uh oh...looks like that
Unpublished

uh oh...looks like that "cool" factor coming into play............................

Craig Spinks
818
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Craig Spinks 06/18/11 - 04:33 pm
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"...(O)nly $38 million...?"

"...(O)nly $38 million...?"

OhWell
326
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OhWell 06/18/11 - 07:07 pm
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Customer service training

Customer service training needs to be offered to all County Employees, I have never been treated as rudely as I am when I have to call one of our government office for service. That being said yes downtown needs to be developed and walking friendly. Can you imagine walking from the James Brown Arena to your hotel or a eating establishment? In both Savannah and Athens you can do that when at conventions.

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