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Officials continue to disagree on name for convention center

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City and convention center officials have a running dispute over what to call the 38,000-square-foot riverfront exhibit hall under construction, and they don’t expect it to end anytime soon.

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Construction on the Augusta Convention Center continued Thursday.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Construction on the Augusta Convention Center continued Thursday.

The dispute: Marriott International, which operates the downtown Marriott and conference center and will run the new building as an expansion of existing event facilities, calls it by one name; the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau uses another.

Two Web sites promote essentially the same thing by different names, with the bureau using $350,000 in hotel tax funding to promote what it calls the golf-themed Trade, Exhibit and Event Center – or TEE Center.

The CVB’s continued use of TEE Center chafes Marriott Vice President and General Manager Darryl Leech, who changed the name of the hotel last year to Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center and calls the building under construction “Augusta Convention Center.”

Leech said calling the building at 901 Reynolds St. by any name other than Augusta Convention Center makes no sense for a
convention facility whose customers are seeking a place to hold a convention, not play golf.

“Fifty-one weeks of the year, they’re here on business,” said Leech, who has run the complex for 20 years. “The goofiness of ‘TEE Center’ makes no sense to the people we’re talking to.”

The bureau, well aware of Leech’s demand, isn’t budging. In a recent presentation to the Downtown Develop­ment Authority, Peggy Siegler, the CVB’s vice president for marketing and sales, called her life “very TEE-centric,” and a sparkly new convention center brochure uses the name throughout.

Asked why the CVB uses the “TEE” name, CVB President and CEO Barry White initially pointed to the city of Augusta, saying in an e-mail that his organization did so “as directed by the city.”

According to Leech and City Administrator Fred Russell, however, “TEE” was coined by the CVB when it first pitched the idea for new exhibition space to the Augusta Commission and to voters, and it is the CVB that keeps it in use.

“I don’t remember us being insistent,” Russell said.

Reached late Friday, White acknowledged that the name was developed by the CVB and, with its subtle association to Augusta, the home of the Masters Tournament, connotes “aspirational mastery and striving.”

The reference, despite the center’s only slight connection to golf, “is extremely positive,” White said.

Moreover, the acronym – for Trade, Exhibit and Event – explains exactly what the new facility will be used for, he said.

“The entire complex qualifies as a convention center,” he said. “We’re marketing an exhibit hall.”

Though the building’s name might be important to the CVB and to Marriott, it doesn’t faze Russell, who joked about the names in light of other perceived controversies over change orders and other complex contractual issues surrounding the center’s construction and its parking deck.

“I think ‘large controversial building’ is appropriate,” Russell said. “Tempest in a TEE Center.”

On a more serious note, Russell said each group had tailored its marketing scheme for its target markets.

“The parties that run the facility are constrained by the rules that run the Marriott,” he said. “I think the CVB will attract a different audience.”

To CVB “champions,” locals who are asked to spread the word that Augusta will have a large convention center soon, the name isn’t significant.

Jacob Oglesby, the executive director of the Augusta Housing Authority, found the convention center’s first convention booking – a September 2013 conference of the Georgia Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities. He said he simply told the association that Augusta now had more event space.

“I explained that we were building a new trade and exhibition center that will enable them to spread out,” Oglesby said.

Brenda Durant, the executive director of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, said she pitches the facility’s capacity and riverfront location, not the TEE name, which she called “an internal word.”

“You don’t stand up in the back of the room and say, ‘Augusta has a TEE Center,’ ” Durant said.

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Just Wondering
16
Points
Just Wondering 06/23/12 - 06:47 pm
5
1
TEE seems like an odd name

Isn't that the nickname for one of Rick Allen's children? Might as well top off the political monopoly the Allen family has in our District with a facility named for one of his children. I suppose it would make me a conspiracy theorist and loony tune to suggest there is something more here than meets the eye. Of course there is no tie between Simon, Morris and Allen in the naming process.

CryoCyberTronics
392
Points
CryoCyberTronics 06/23/12 - 07:12 pm
4
0
What's in a name?

In 1979 The Augusta-Richmond County Civic Visitors And Convention Center opened its doors with much fanfare. Up until that time Augusta only had Bell Auditorium which had served the Augusta Community well for a very long time. The Organization making the pitch for it at the time was The Southern Baptist. Founded here in Augusta at First Baptist Church of Augusta. Whom after many years in existence, as reported by the Augusta Chronicle has just Name it's first Black Leader. By the we now know The ARCC&CC as the James Brown Arena. By the way The Southern Baptist no longer hold their conventions here anymore. 

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 06/23/12 - 09:23 pm
8
0
Marriott Runs Things

So let me ask. Say the Ramada on Broad St had a group booked that wanted to use the bigger space at the TEE. The Ramada would supply transporation and bring their own food, etc.. Since this is a city owned building would the Marriott allow use of the TEE? If rental fees are involved, do organizations that come to the Marriott and use the building pay the rental fee to the city?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 06/23/12 - 09:48 pm
8
0
Who cares what the Marriott

Who cares what the Marriott thinks or wants?

If they want naming rights, let them fork over the moolah.

I've asked before, but why does Marriott have any say about anything? For good, bad, or otherwise, this is a taxpayer-funded and taxpayer-owned facility.

Little Lamb
43942
Points
Little Lamb 06/23/12 - 09:57 pm
9
0
Name?

Well, Dr. Ricardo Azziz has experience in naming things. Why not ask him to help you form a committee to name the TEE Center? You could appoint a couple of history professors from ASU, a senior staff member from GHSU, one black commissioner, one white commissioner, and a partridge in a pear tree. The convention center must have no more than three words, must have the word "convention" in the name, and must not have the word "center" in it.

Then you can gather four or five hundred names from Chronicle commenters.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 06/23/12 - 09:56 pm
3
1
the marriott pretty much owns

the marriott pretty much owns it. plus their name is better..
i'd just think of "too everloving expensive" most times i read TEE center anyway

call Augusta late for supper when it comes to convention hosting

Little Lamb
43942
Points
Little Lamb 06/23/12 - 10:07 pm
4
0
Naming Rights

Insider has a good idea. These large stadia all have corporate sponsors who name the ball fields. Why shouldn't the city open up bids for the naming rights? Only instead of selling the right to name the convention center, instead the city should rent the right to name the center. They could auction off the right to name the convention center to any company or individual for three years at a time. It would certainly ease the burden of us taxpayers.

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 06/23/12 - 10:32 pm
6
1
Ha, You Wouldn't Get 50 Cents

With the first event scheduled more than a year after it opens and no event that hasn't been here even looking, why would anyone pay for the naming rights? No one will be going there.

Little Lamb
43942
Points
Little Lamb 06/23/12 - 10:40 pm
7
0
Lacobu

From the story above:

Though the building’s name might be important to the CVB and to Marriott, it doesn’t faze City Administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell, who joked about the names in light of other perceived controversies over change orders and other complex contractual issues surrounding the center’s construction and its parking deck. “I think ‘large controversial building’ is appropriate,” Russell said.

Large Controversial Building is what Russell suggests. It actually is not a bad name. Since we have the Westabou Festival named after some Indian tribe name for the Savannah River, Lacobu fits right in.

Lacobu at Westabou — it has a nice ring to it.

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 06/23/12 - 10:39 pm
6
1
Wells Fargo TEE Center, since they own

Wells Fargo TEE Center, since they own the land.

Little Lamb
43942
Points
Little Lamb 06/23/12 - 10:42 pm
7
0
Shorten

Or you could just shorten that name to FarT Center.

Sweet son
9716
Points
Sweet son 06/23/12 - 10:44 pm
6
2
Only in Augusta!

Can't figure out what to name two universities that are merging so why would anyone think that Augusta can figure out what to name a "convention" center? I just hope it is not a total flop and will end up being a tax burden without any revenue to support itself.

I was especially dumbfounded at the names suggested for our Universities and TEE is probably worse. Maybe if you attach the word Marriot somewhere it will help to draw some customers.

Heck even the Southern Baptists might come back to the Godfather of Soul's hometown since they have a black leader now.

Sweet son
9716
Points
Sweet son 06/23/12 - 10:46 pm
4
2
Good Choice!!

I like your suggestion Little Lamb. It is appropriate for anything in the great State of Augusta!!

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 06/23/12 - 10:47 pm
4
0
If our commissioners had a

If our commissioners had a clue they would offer to name it the Ramada Inn Convention Center. When Marriott complains, offer to name it after the Marriott for the same amount of money we pay them to run it.

Everyone wins.

Little Lamb
43942
Points
Little Lamb 06/23/12 - 10:47 pm
5
0
I know nuh-tink, I know nuh-tink

From the story above:

“I don’t remember us being insistent,” City Administrator Fred (What, me worry?) Russell said.

Not only does Russell not worry about anything; he also does not remember anything. That's convenient for a city administrator.

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 06/23/12 - 10:51 pm
10
1
Mayor Must Be Heading to the Beach

This is getting a little controversial with the Marriott wanting their way. Mayor Copenhaver has already turned off his phone and is probably loading up the car to head to the beach.

countyman
19166
Points
countyman 06/24/12 - 12:03 am
2
6
Imagine the additonal people

Imagine the additonal people shopping, lodging, eating, walking, etc in the CBD... The TEE center has a total of six events booked, and it's still under construction.... The first event(Georgia Chiefs of Police) is set for January 23, 2012 in downtown Augusta..

I don't remember the Georgia Chiefs of Police meeting here before....

Jake
31687
Points
Jake 06/24/12 - 12:24 am
5
1
9:57 to 10:47

Got me laughing my can off. Classic parody, LL. FarTee, Lacobu.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 06/24/12 - 06:55 am
10
1
Is the name "The Money Pit"

Is the name "The Money Pit" already taken?

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 06/24/12 - 07:38 am
6
2
Occupancy Rate of Convention Centers

The original opening date of the TEE was this spring which has passed. It's now being put off until later this fall. I suspect it is an intentional delay because no events had been booked. But let's look at average occupancy rates for convention centers that are available on the internet. Average occupancy rates for events is considered 44% of the days. Full occupancy is considered between 70-75%.

Convention centers cannot achieve higher rates due to the inability to book back to back events, facility maintenance, holiday periods and the problems booking events for one-two days between weekend events.

Now let's consider what the occupancy rate of our TEE center will be. The most generous estimate I've heard is six events are scheduled over about two and a half years. Can anyone even do the math on such a low occupancy rate? It's like dividing by infinity and it's abysmal. The TEE is a total, complete, abject $100 million failure by the most liberal standard for everyone except the owner of the Marriott who got a large facility-parking garage for free and money to manage it.

blues550
355
Points
blues550 06/24/12 - 07:36 am
0
0
Don't Forget South Augusta
Unpublished

A continuing red-headed step child must be included, I recommend
JUST NORTH OF SOUTH AUGUSTA CENTER

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 06/24/12 - 07:42 am
0
0
Since Marriott did not pay
Unpublished

Since Marriott did not pay for construction- they shouldn't be given naming rights. However, it would be fair for their suggestions to at least be considered. I would personally prefer to keep it SIMPLE... something like Augusta Convention Center, or Augusta Trade and Exhibition Center. They could take the various "rooms" and name them- but for any organization looking for a location to have their venue, they would probably prefer to know exactly what they're getting by name.

bentman
455
Points
bentman 06/24/12 - 08:43 am
1
3
Let the New U naming

Let the New U naming committee have a shot at naming the building. They can produce some some real winners (gag).

countyman
19166
Points
countyman 06/24/12 - 09:01 am
1
6
The cost of the TEE Center is

The cost of the TEE Center is $38 million......

Six events are booked for the year 2013, and the first one begins January 2013....

It's great news the overwhelmingly majority of citizens living in RC wanted the TEE Center...

I clearly remember some people saying the center wouldn't attract one single event... Were at number six already, and still counting...

I also notice groups are coming who didn't meet in Augusta before the space was built..

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 06/24/12 - 09:12 am
5
0
just call it riverfront

just call it riverfront convention center.
they can steal the jingle from that car repair place on sand bar ferry

start advertising for family reunions and weddings there. heh.

wsm141
115
Points
wsm141 06/24/12 - 09:39 am
8
0
Nothing and I mean nothing

Nothing and I mean nothing is taxpayer "owned" only taxpayer "funded"

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 06/24/12 - 09:57 am
5
0
Countyman, realize it opens

Countyman, realize it opens in 2012 and should have already opened. But do you have a list of the events scheduled for 2013? I know some have been here before using existing facilities. Still realize, even if you have 6 events in a year it's still an embarrassingly low occupancy rate. Afterall, we're paying another $350,000 a year to market the place. But are there actually 6 major events from outside Augusta coming? I'd like to see the list.

If the Ramada schedules an event at the TEE can they use the kitchen we paid for?

Riverman1
79615
Points
Riverman1 06/24/12 - 10:17 am
6
0
$38 Million v. $100Let's

$38 Million v. $100

Let's keep in mind we have committed the other $60 million to Laney Walker revitalization as a payoff for building the TEE. That is motel-hotel tax money mostly paid by motels out in the county that is supposed to be going to promote tourism, not clean up a neighborhood in the downtown area.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 06/24/12 - 10:11 am
0
0
Keep in mind... the building
Unpublished

Keep in mind... the building is not finished and open for business. A lot of organizations will want to see the completed facility BEFORE they consider booking the facility. Some of these events are planned years in advance and they may have already booked their facilities in advance. There's no reason why small to medium sized events wouldn't at least consider it- maybe not next year, or the next but perhaps once it's up and going they'll check into it.

Conservative Man
5303
Points
Conservative Man 06/24/12 - 12:41 pm
4
0
One more thing River

One more thing Riverman. The tax is paid by OTHER hotel owners that are in line to receive absolutely zero benefit. Who is the ONLY entity that stands to benefit? The owners of the Marriott...Who is that? Augusta Riverfront LLC. Who handed it over t them on a silver platter? Fred Russell. The whole deal "Stinks" from the head down.....Countyman and certain city leaders are praying this thing pays off or it will go down as one of the most blatant examples of corporate welfare in the history of the state of Georgia....

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