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Convention center nearing completion

With contract settled, construction wraps up

Friday, Nov. 9, 2012 8:04 PM
Last updated Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 3:30 AM
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What has been a construction site for the past 28 months no longer requires the wearing of a hard hat.

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The new Augusta Convention Center features 38,000 square feet of open meeting space. Augusta commissioners ended gridlock and approved a management agreement for the new center Thursday.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
The new Augusta Convention Center features 38,000 square feet of open meeting space. Augusta commissioners ended gridlock and approved a management agreement for the new center Thursday.

The Augusta Convention Center, also known as the TEE Center, is very near completion. Construction workers swept dust and performed detail work around the 38,000-square-foot meeting space Friday.

Already in use was the convention center kitchen, which adjoins the Marriott conference center run by Augusta Riverfront LLC.

Activities performed in the kitchen, which the city built to serve both the convention center and the conference center, were perhaps the largest bone of contention by the Augusta Commission, which held off approving a convention center management agreement with Augusta Riverfront until Thursday.

Commissioner Corey Johnson, one of six commissioners who consented to the revised management deal, said the changes reduce the city’s risk of losses that can only be estimated because the facility is not yet open.

Under the deal approved Thursday, Augusta Riverfront will be responsible for the expenses and pay the city a percentage when gross receipts exceed $400,000.

The 15-year contract the commission had been considering would have required that the city pay catering expenses, such as utilities, labor, maintenance and food costs, and a fee to Augusta Riverfront to cater the events.

Under a shorter, two-year agreement, which the city can terminate, Augusta Riverfront will pay the city 5 percent when gross receipts are between $400,000 and $500,000; 10 percent of gross receipts between $500,001 and $750,000; and 12.5 percent of gross receipts of $750,001 or more. The kitchen will be on a separate power meter billed to Augusta Riverfront.

Excluding the kitchen, the city will cover expenses and receive all profits but pay Augusta Riverfront a fee.

Johnson said he took some heat from Commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett, who voted against the changed deal.

“Our job is to minimize the losses,” Johnson said. “We’ve narrowed this thing down to where it’s controllable. I’m not going to sit here and feel bad about a decision I made, because I did my homework.”

Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront, said his company preferred a long-term contract – originally requesting 50 years – but said the new arrangement “makes for a better working relationship between the two parties.”

“My preference was that we had the full 50-year deal, but this is OK. We can prove to them that we’re the best operators. We’re right there, and we can save them money,” Simon said.

Augusta Riverfront, which has run the Marriott and conference center for 23 years, shares management with Morris Communications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

Having the same company run the hotel, the conference center and new convention facility will allow Augusta Riverfront to share personnel and services such as marketing among them, Simon said.

The approved agreement requires that the city employ the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau to market the convention center.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver reveled at the facility during a tour Friday.

Though several commissioners have questioned a 2009 decision to build adjacent to the riverfront Marriott, a recommendation made in a CVB study, Copenhaver said it was the only way to go.

“The only place it was really feasible was to go right where it is,” he said.

City Administrator Fred Russell said he hoped to hold an Augusta Convention Center open house before the end of the year, but no date has been set.

The facility has 12 conventions scheduled during 2013.

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Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 11/09/12 - 10:01 pm
3
0
Hmm....

..."Already in use was the convention center kitchen, which adjoins the Marriott conference center run by Augusta Riverfront LLC..."

Okay...let me get this straight..

The ink is barely dry on the "bogus/bought-off/sham" agreement before they are already using the equipment to further enrich those that have have royally ripped off the taxpayers of Richmond County to the tune of MILLIONS?....

I mean...REALLY??..

Gentleman...(I use the term loosely of course)..

Have you no shame?...

"Have you, at long last, NO shame?"

Sadly I think not.....more's the pity....

With "leadership" as pathetic as this.....Richmond County is doomed..

gargoyle
20644
Points
gargoyle 11/09/12 - 10:13 pm
2
0
Not covered

Not covered in this news story ,How soon before Fred Russell is named manager of the center

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 11/10/12 - 04:33 am
2
0
Kitchen

They probably were in there making a sandwich or something.

You know, when you read this, it just seems so...I can't even think of the words I want to say. This is unreal how this was done and turned out. I don't know of many places that would have allowed this to happen and why we did.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 11/10/12 - 06:20 am
3
0
Well they got an agreement in place

just before the doors opened and the new commissioners came roaring in with a much less pro-TEE center zeal.

I guess River Front LLC and the River Front 6 saw the writing on the parking deck walls and decided to finally bend a little.

Jokingly said:
Why does the AC continue to use "City" or "Augusta"?
Augusta and Richmond Co. were officially renamed when they were consolidated correct? Augusta did lose its charter correct?
Richmond Co. residents outnumber Down-Towners correct?

So let us change the name to something fitting and representative of the mess. Let us re-incorporate the mess and call it ;-).

Augusta,
A River Front LLC Development

Riverman1
93316
Points
Riverman1 11/10/12 - 10:05 am
2
0
Augusta CVB Now Employed?

"The approved agreement requires that the city employ the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau to market the convention center."

So the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau which we already fund will now be "employed" to market the TEE? We paid them $350,000 this year to market it. This will be an ongoing expense?

Riverman1
93316
Points
Riverman1 11/10/12 - 10:07 am
1
1
Dr. Heywood Sanders

I am in contact with a couple of activists who investigated the questionable arrangements and they are just sickened with this final deal. City tomfooleries have them disgusted.

I am once again reminded of Dr. Heywood Sanders, the noted authority on convention centers, who warned us about building a TEE and expecting it to be anything but a money pit. When asked why other small cities have built them he answered, “Because people with real estate who stand to profit are well connected politically.”

By the way, why does Wells Fargo have a continuing role?

soapy_725
44107
Points
soapy_725 11/10/12 - 10:14 am
0
0
Open curtain, U R so preceptive
Unpublished

Not just U. But so many of the posters. Collectively you could get this town back a possible D-? But politics would corrupt you all. LOL You would be selling your souls to the devil. We are amazed that a commission election, not new members seated, yet so much completed WORK. LOL The quagmire or gag-mire is removed. Now we can all go to the beach with Boardman-Coperhaver.

And talk about naming a school, or a courthouse or even the town. LOL Only in the Arse of the South. LOL LOL A huge "black hole" where money is indiscriminately poured each and everyday.

soapy_725
44107
Points
soapy_725 11/10/12 - 10:20 am
1
0
Rarely do you hear Duval County?
Unpublished

It is Jacksonville. Simple. Uncomplicated. Amazing town. They must have some very astute, major business oriented leaders. Ah well. They were the model for ARC. The were the "benchmark". Their future was the mirror for the future of ARC.

They have a riverfront. ARC has riverfront. They are successful. ARC can't collect trash or process sewerage. They have leaders. ARC has thieving contractors and perpetrators of fraud.

They have a sense of common good. ARC has s_ for brains.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 11/10/12 - 02:32 pm
2
0
Also...

....The story neglects to point out that the $400grand gross receipts clause pertains to catering ONLY. Not gross receipts of the Center itself....

Without a "rights to audit"clause, which the city does NOT have what do want to bet the gross will be about $395grand a year EVERY year?

DoggieMom
344
Points
DoggieMom 11/10/12 - 03:24 pm
2
0
Augusta Convention Center

Why not call it "THE REGENTS CONVENTION CENTER" and make Azziz manage it for free.
After all, he only cares about his power, and would be happy to make more of Augusta miserable with his decision-making skills!!

Put into his contract that either the Center is profitable within 1 month, or else he will not be needed in Augusta in ANYity.
A win/win for the Convention Center, the Marriott, and MCG (or whatever name he's calling MCG this week).

Use the Convention Center to run Medical Meetings.

DoggieMom
344
Points
DoggieMom 11/10/12 - 03:32 pm
2
0
Augusta Convention Center

Why not call it "THE REGENTS CONVENTION CENTER" and make Azziz manage it for free.
After all, he only cares about his power, and would be happy to make more of Augusta miserable with his decision-making skills!!

Put into his contract that either the Center is profitable within 1 month, or else he will not be needed in Augusta in ANY capacity.
A win/win for the Convention Center, the Marriott, and MCG (or whatever name he's calling MCG this week).

Use the Convention Center to run Medical Meetings.

Riverman1
93316
Points
Riverman1 11/10/12 - 05:43 pm
2
0
TEE Competes with JB and Other Venues

Realize we are now employing something we already pay for, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, to market the TEE at the expense of the JB Arena…and other area venues. When an organization uses the JB, the city got 100% of the rental with a small fee to Global Spectrum. With the TEE, the city gets only 5%. By the way when the Marriott rents space to events now in the current city owned conference center, the city also only gets 5% of the rental income.

The city should be getting a much higher percentage of the rent for ITS building, plus a cut of the room rentals at the Marriott. These contracts at the TEE and commandeering of the CVB to market for one hotel are truly outrageous.

Conservative Man
5578
Points
Conservative Man 11/10/12 - 06:23 pm
1
0
Wow Riverman, we were just

Wow Riverman, we were just discussing the same thing today. Isn't it great that Corey Johnson did his research!!!!! (Insert sarcasm here). So much that this town does not know about these deals, including Countyman.

Little Lamb
48880
Points
Little Lamb 11/11/12 - 12:06 am
0
0
Job

I can promise you that someone promised Corey Johnson a primrose job at Riverfront, LLC, once he leaves the commission for his vote on this travesty of a deal.

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