The expansion of the downtown Augusta convention center is on track to be completed in January, the same month as the first scheduled event.
At the riverfront exhibit hall on Reynolds Street, kitchen equipment is being installed, the concrete has been poured for the exhibition hall and the entrance into the parking deck, the Harrison building, is being completed, said Forrest White, a senior associate for Heery International Inc., the company hired as program manager for the Capital Improvements Program in Augusta-Richmond County.
“We can start putting our ceiling and drywall in. They’re doing painting. We’re on schedule,” White said.
The 38,000-square-foot convention center costs $29.5 million and is being financed by $20 million in special purpose local option sales tax funding approved by voters in 2005.
A westbound lane of Reynolds Street that has been closed during construction will reopen in late September, said Jacques Ware, a project manager for Dukes Edwards & Dukes, a subconsultant for Heery International. The exterior signs, balcony railing and other finishes require lift equipment that needs to be positioned along the street, he said.
Ware said the lane can reopen after the convention center sign, which will read “Augusta Convention Center,” is placed and other overhead work on that side of the building is completed.
“Basically, I’m providing safety for the workers as they incorporate the remaining items on the facade of the building,” Ware said.
The first booking at the center, also called the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center, is for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police 2013 Winter Training Conference, from Jan. 27-30, said Katrina Selby, the director of marketing communications for the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The CVB has been told that the official opening date of the center is Jan. 1, so the staff is not worried about delays, Selby said.
“We have no concerns that it will not be ready to open Jan. 1,” Selby said. “My understanding is that substantial completion will actually be done in the fall, and then it’s just doing the punch list of things that need to be done for final opening in January.”
There are 12 signed contracts for the center. Eleven of the groups will arrive in 2013, and one is signed for September 2015, according to a release.
These events, excluding the Augusta Tattoo Festival because it is a consumer show, are expected to bring $7.2 million to Augusta in direct visitor spending.
“It is great to welcome new groups to Augusta, but is also great to welcome back groups that had grown too big to meet in Augusta,” Barry White, the president and CEO of the CVB, said in a news release.
Ten of the groups would not have been able to meet in Augusta without the flat, column-free space that will be offered at the center.
The 12 groups will bring an estimated 9,800 visitors to Augusta. Direct visitor spending is based on the amount of money that attendees spend during a conference and how many nights they spend in a hotel.
White said that he had been working with some of the groups for two years to schedule their events in the center. Five of the groups signed contracts at the end of June.