Tagging along on a “champions” tour of the new Augusta Convention Center construction site Thursday, City Administrator Fred Russell was impressed.
“The scale, and what you’re going to be able to put in those rooms,” Russell said. “The floor’s massive. It’s pretty darn cool.”
The tour, which offered about 130 area residents an opportunity to see what the glass-walled facility looks like so they might spread the word, was the latest of several held by the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau as the facility nears completion.
The news media weren’t allowed to attend but were given a separate tour Thursday.
Unlike any other Augusta facility, the Augusta Convention Center, formerly called the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center, can seat a banquet for 1,800, and at 38,000 square feet, is roomy enough for a booked transit association convention to drive three buses inside, Russell said. Its size allows it to compete on a state and regional level for all but the largest trade shows and events, he said.
With completion of the downtown building expected in August and the city set to take over in November, all that remains is approval of new management agreements with Augusta Riverfront LLC, the company that operates the adjacent Marriott and already-complete $12 million Reynolds Street parking deck.
Augusta Riverfront LLC has close ties to the management of Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.
Agreements with Augusta Riverfront are nearly complete and under review by tax and other attorneys, said Jim Plunkett, the special counsel for the city for the convention center project, in a recent interview.
After questions about the parking deck and its management agreement delayed the Augusta Commission’s approval earlier this year, Plunkett said he hopes to have the documents available for the commission to review well in advance of the center’s opening.