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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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Lori Davis
1006
Points
Lori Davis 06/24/12 - 12:10 pm
7
0
I went on a tour of the TEE

I went on a tour of the TEE Center a couple of weeks ago. I asked if there would be shuttle service from other area hotels and was told, No, it would be too expensive. I was also told that most conventions would be statewide ones....OK, we have built a huge convention center capable of handling national conventions and this is not on our radar? I was told by Miss Bubbly that most folks would be driving in anyway. No need for transportation, besides, there is a place for the city bus to load and unload. What a huge joke. Where would one find a city bus if necessary? We all know that this was built to enrich Augusta Riverfront LLC. The other crazy thing is that it is being advertised by the CVB as a great place to host a family reunion...Really? This place is HUGE!!!! What another crazy idea
I have been to conventions all over the U.S and Internationally. Convention Centers paid for by the tax payers are not attached to privately owned hotels. All of this will be exposed, and hopefully we will have people brave enough in this city to join forces and file a lawsuit. It is all working as planned and our City Administrator needs to be relieved of his duties ASAP. I went before the Augusta Commission in February and called for his dismissal. Did any of you see this written about in this publication? We need new leaders in Augusta Government. I also had a man tell me last week that he did not care if someone died over the TEE Center, we needed it. He serves on one of Augusta's many authorities. Are these the type of people we want representing us? It is time to really get involved, and to you Countyman, when all is said and done, this will have been a $100,000,000 mistake.

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 06/24/12 - 12:42 pm
4
0
Beautiful Women Impress Me

Especially when they understand current events.

Lori Davis
1006
Points
Lori Davis 06/24/12 - 01:14 pm
2
0
Thanks Riverman...... Also

Thanks Riverman...... Also money is being diverted from the Hotel/motel transportation tax to the Tee, and advertisement of it, before the property has been turned over to the city. There is still one parcel owned by Augusta Riverfront LLC. This is against ordinance. How many of you know all of this? Stay tuned. There is always more in the deception.

Little Lamb
48969
Points
Little Lamb 06/24/12 - 03:03 pm
2
1
Hotel Tax

Riverman posted:

$38 Million (Countyman) vs. $100 Million (Riverman). 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.

Facts are stubborn things, Countyman.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 06/24/12 - 04:48 pm
2
0
Dates, numbers and facts

Dates, numbers and facts continue to confuse some people.

One of our fellow commenters (AKA spindoctor for the county) proudly proclaims that the TEE Center held a convention in January 2012.

Can someone explain how the TEE Center held any events months ago before it opened?

Was it held in a shell of a building?

Jake
34040
Points
Jake 06/24/12 - 05:37 pm
0
0
Graduations

Maybe if the price is right then they can start holding graduations there. Shame to let a new building go to waste.
Lori's comments are insightful as usual.

countyman
21630
Points
countyman 06/24/12 - 05:53 pm
0
0
The Laney Walker/Bethlehem

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem redevelopment is a total of $37.5 million, and not the imaginary $60 million...

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 06/24/12 - 06:05 pm
0
0
"The first event(Georgia

"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...."

I don't remember that either.

In fact, I don't remember any conventions, meetings, gatherings, social outings or luncheons of any sort held at the TEE Center in January, February, March, April, May or June 2012.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 06/24/12 - 06:48 pm
0
0
Point of fact..

I'll give "Countypeople" the benefit of the doubt on 2012 vs. 2013. We all make typos from time to time.
But the reality IS that at the rate the Morris/Simon White Elephant Center is booking events, it will take YEARS to pay back the money absconded from the taxpayers.....corporate welfare at it's worst!!!

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 06/24/12 - 06:48 pm
2
0
As for naming the place, how

As for naming the place, how about "The House That Bribery Built"?

Maybe, "ABC" (Augusta, Bribery and Corruption)?

What about Augusta's National Joke?

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 06/24/12 - 06:59 pm
0
0
Good one I.I.!!

Good one I.I.!!

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 06/24/12 - 08:40 pm
0
0
Plan to Keep Other Hotels' Events Out?

It appears the plan is to keep other hotels from using the TEE for their events. Also, the kitchen equipment the county paid for will only be for the Mariott's use.

Riverman1
93494
Points
Riverman1 06/24/12 - 09:20 pm
0
0
Countyman, don't forget the

Countyman, don't forget the $17 million for the parking garage that the voters never approved.

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