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Augusta Convention Center gets grand opening downtown

Facility provides 'face-lift' for downtown

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 11:23 PM
Last updated Wednesday, March 6, 2013 7:53 PM
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Area leaders celebrated the grand opening of Augusta’s newest attraction – a riverfront convention center in the heart of downtown Augusta – as a transformative moment for the city Thursday.

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Mayor Deke Copenhaver raises the scissors after cutting the ribbon with Dayton Sherrouse (front row, from left), the chairman of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau; Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC; Darryl Leech, the vice president and general manager of Marriott at the Convention Center; and Remer Brinson, the chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Mayor Deke Copenhaver raises the scissors after cutting the ribbon with Dayton Sherrouse (front row, from left), the chairman of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau; Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC; Darryl Leech, the vice president and general manager of Marriott at the Convention Center; and Remer Brinson, the chairman of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce.

“I am thrilled beyond belief,” said Rep. Barbara Sims, R-Augusta, who served on the city commission during part of the body’s dozen-year effort to build Augusta’s first convention center. “It’s greater than I ever thought it would be. I love the inclusion of the brick. There’s no reason a place like this can’t be hopping all the time.”

Designed by architect tvsdesign and built by contractor R.W. Allen and Associates, the $50 million Reynolds Street center incorporates a historic brick cotton warehouse into its design and features 38,000 square feet of open meeting space.

The facility, which adjoins the downtown Marriott – now known as Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center – boldly marks Augusta’s entry into the Southeastern convention scene, said Butch Gallop, a longtime consultant on the project.

“Savannah needs to watch out,” Gallop said. “This is an exceptional facility. Augustans today should be really proud.”

Visitors of all ages flocked to the center Thursday for a business expo, the CVB’s annual State of Tourism luncheon and the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner.

Aquinas High School junior Lydia Purcell, who attended the ribbon-cutting and dinner with Youth Leadership Richmond County, said the group had visited the center before it opened and now was able to see it in action.

“It’s really interesting,” Lydia said. “It’s just given downtown a face-lift, and hopefully that will spill over across the rest of downtown.”

Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC, the firm that runs the Marriott and now the convention center, said it will transform the city.

“In my opinion, it’s going to change the center of downtown Augusta,” Simon said. “We look forward to it bringing a lot of business to downtown.”

Simon and members of the Augusta Commission spent many hours over the past year reviewing complex and sometimes divisive management agreements related to operations at the convention center and parking garage. His company shares management with Morris Communications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

For Mike Burkett, the president of Virginia College’s Augusta campus, the convention center serves as an enhancement to the area’s economy and a possible venue for the college’s graduation ceremonies.

“Anything that strengthens the economy of the CSRA is good for the school,” Burkett said.

It is operated by a private company, but “this is the citizens of Augusta’s building,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said.

“It’s amazing what’s been built here,” he said. “We’re transforming the landscape of the city.”

The CVB suggested in 2001 that Augusta was losing events from a lack of meeting space. The CVB rallied voters to support a 2005 sales tax referendum that included funding for the convention center, recalled Dayton Sherrouse, the CVB chairman and the executive director of Augusta Canal Authority.

“Twenty years from now, we’re going to be thinking, how did we ever get along without this?” said Remer Brinson, the president of the chamber’s board of directors.

Officials said the success of the center – often called the Trade, Exhibit and Event Center – depends on getting the word out. City Administrator Fred Russell administered an “oath” to everyone in attendance, deputizing each as an ambassador for the complex. The center has just 20 events booked and saw two cancel from delays in approval of its operating documents.

“Now the real work begins,” said former Commissioner Don Grantham, who served on the body during much of the decision-making and brokered a deal with black commissioners to support the convention center in return for funding for the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem redevelopment project. “That’s what really got it started. Now come see what Augusta, Ga., has to offer. Not just a golf course, but all the other things.”

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bdouglas
5135
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bdouglas 03/01/13 - 12:37 am
3
0
Which one in the picture is

Which one in the picture is Countyman? (c;

Grandpa Jones
1058
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Grandpa Jones 03/01/13 - 05:29 am
2
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...

Countyman = the one who is wearing the most expensive suit.

soapy_725
43686
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soapy_725 03/01/13 - 06:21 am
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Is it Deke or Paul? The Transformers !!!
Unpublished

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = Fort Augusta

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = Fort Gordon

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = Bomb Plant & Dam

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = May 1970

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = Port Royal

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = JB Cvic Center

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = Golf & Gardens

a transformative moment for the city of Augusta = Deke Coperhaver

a TRUE transformative moment for the city of Augusta = the removal of all of the current "leadership" and their construction cronies

Riverman1
84917
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Riverman1 03/01/13 - 07:43 am
4
1
Meter Starts Now

The meter starts now, a year late, with $1.4 million yearly in management and advertising costs. The utilities and maintenance costs will be determined later, but the city is paying. We will see.

I'm Back Again
307
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I'm Back Again 03/01/13 - 08:41 am
0
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I did not realize that
Unpublished

I did not realize that Augusta was lacking a place for people to meet. I just figured nobody wanted to go there. And it's funny that the people that are praising it are the people that are in line to make some folders off its success.
What a taxpayer waste of money. Period!

soapy_725
43686
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soapy_725 03/01/13 - 08:49 am
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A face lift for downtown
Unpublished

Did you hear that South Augusta? You taxpayers are such a joke that Deke and Paul do not even have to pretend they are putting lipstick on the pig. Deke and Paul rammed this one home. Hope all went down to view the illegitimate child born of rape victims. Ain't she beautiful. But we will never be able to determine her father?

While they are looking at new names, The Ben Dover Center would be quite appropriate.

Please, try an hold down the laughter on those last two pews at First Baptist.

Little Lamb
46404
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Little Lamb 03/01/13 - 11:24 am
1
1
Hopping All the Time?

Ever notice how when you get all gussied up that hyperbole flows out of your mouth?

countyman
20236
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countyman 03/01/13 - 02:43 pm
3
2
''The center has just 20

''The center has just 20 events booked''

The bias in the paper is sometimes too ridiculous to even comprehend. 20 events is extremely good compared to the Lady A amphitheater or exhibition hall in Columbia County.

Do you guys have to suck up to Columbia County all the time?

I know Richmond County is blacker and more democratic, but it's the most important county in the metro area.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 03/01/13 - 04:06 pm
1
0
Why yall keep pickin at CM.

Why yall keep pickin at CM. He's consistent, you have to give him credit. I love both areas. I love downtown and even though it's always lazy and not nearly as metro as I'd like, it's trying and I support that effort. CC is nice with the lake and my little acre of paradise gives me some nature but has good proximity for me to get anywhere I need without much time/gas.

Both areas have downsides. CC, you are OCD with chain-restaurants and Walmarts and I don't like it. With the purging of small-business and niche operations, you now lack culture and although a lot of dollars are spent, they are spent on lower quality in general (just my observation and opinion). Downtown AUG, you are in this eternal struggle to progress. There is too much money and property and influence all bunched up with a handful of individuals. Makes it too easy to "direct" money instead of allowing a free-market to exist with regard to development. Plus there is clearly some dysfunction within the commission. I don't know much but I know that.

Little Lamb
46404
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Little Lamb 03/01/13 - 09:53 pm
1
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What does he mean by this?

From the story:

“In my opinion, it’s going to change the center of downtown Augusta,” Paul Simon, president of Augusta Riverfront, LLC, said.

So is the center of downtown Augusta shifting from 8th and Broad to 9th and Reynolds?

texsmoke
139
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texsmoke 03/01/13 - 10:36 pm
1
0
If u haven't seen it

You should visit. I was there last night for the ribbon cutting and banquet. It's an amazing facility. I know the way it finally came to be is questionable but I really think its in the right direction for growth. However they need to make sure Marriott isn't getting every catering event. The food last night was horrible except for desert. Plain asparagus and bland pork loin

Little Lamb
46404
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Little Lamb 03/02/13 - 10:01 am
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Exclusivity

Here is where the city of Augusta went wrong with the "management agreement" with Augusta Riverfront, LLC — on the convention center website is the following statement:

The Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center is proud to be the exclusive caterer at the Augusta Convention Center.

(emphasis by Little Lamb)

There is no good reason why catering could not have been left open. Augusta has many reputable catering companies. Many potential clients would have preferred to choose a dedicated catering company over hotel food. Dumb mistake if you ask me.

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