Tee Center supporters see dream realized

Augusta leaders break ground on exhibit hall

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In visitors bureau meetings a decade ago, Sandra Fenstermacher first heard talk about the need for an exhibit hall.

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City officials break ground on the $38 million TEE Center, which should open in 2012. It will be attached to the conference center in the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites.   ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
City officials break ground on the $38 million TEE Center, which should open in 2012. It will be attached to the conference center in the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites.

On Wednesday morning, she stood with other city leaders, wearing a blue hard-hat and wielding a golden shovel, ceremonially marking the beginning of the construction of that hall.

"To sit through years of meetings when you have to listen to the staff talk about conventions that were turned down because there was no exhibit hall space ... it was a dream and had its ups and downs," said Fenstermacher, who runs Sacred Heart Cultural Center and spent the early 2000s on the visitors bureau board.

"To see it become reality and to see the excitement of the people who were there, the supporters, it really was a dream come true," she said.

For more than a year, Reynolds Street will be the site of several construction projects near the intersection of Ninth Street. The first will be the $38 million TEE Center, which drew city leaders for Wednesday's groundbreaking ceremony.

The trade, exhibit and event center should open in early 2012. The building will be attached to the existing conference center within the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites.

The next ground breaking will be for the proposed Hyatt Place hotel catty-cornered from the TEE Center. The developer of the $25 million hotel, Cortland Dusseau, attended the TEE Center ceremony and said he hasn't picked a date for his ceremony.

"This leads the parade," he said of the exhibit center which was instrumental in his decision to locate a 139-room hotel nearby.

With the Augusta Commission approving $8.6 million in bonds that will pay for the parking deck under the hotel, Dusseau feels the pieces are falling into place for the project.

"When you consider between the TEE Center and the Kroc Center, the new Master's Table, judicial center, library and the new dental school alone, that's over $340 million in ongoing investment in a 1-mile radius downtown," said Mayor Deke Copenhaver. "You don't see that in other cities at this point."

Augusta commissioners took the moment to reflect on the historic nature of the day.

Commissioner Corey Johnson referred to the ceremony as reaching a milestone.

Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason said the event represents turning a page in Augusta.

"We're actually getting things done," he explained. "There are many times when we had to have discussion before we can make something happen. Once we move past that, you have our 100 percent support."

The feasibility study on the TEE Center was finished in 2002 and first presented to the commission in 2003. Voters approved $20 million in special purpose local option sales tax money for the project in 2006.

The center was hung up in the Augusta Commission for seven months in 2009 as politicians haggled over dollars and details.

"Moving forward, this is a great day for Augusta," Mason said.

Commissioner Matt Aitken said the project is going to benefit all residents of Augusta.

"I said it before, we're growing up as a city," Aitken said. "I think it is going to put us in a position now to be competitive throughout Georgia, throughout the region."

Officials with the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau will use Wednesday's event as a marker to begin a marketing campaign to attract events for the center when it opens.

Tourism officials will be targeting large events that plan years in advance.

After property transfer closings, work crews should arrive for demolition in late July, according to R.W. Allen, the downtown Augusta firm managing the construction.

The center will have 40,000 square feet of exhibit space, expandable toward 10th Street if needed in the future.

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Indigo
4
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Indigo 06/16/10 - 12:31 pm
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1 - R W Allen, is NOT an

1 - R W Allen, is NOT an architectural firm.
2 - Who cares where the dirt came from?
3 - I guess the commissioners involved are used to shoveling #%$# so the dirt was a nice change of pace.

countyman
20581
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countyman 06/16/10 - 12:45 pm
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Indigo, None of those people

Indigo, None of those people with shovels are commissioners.

omnomnom
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omnomnom 06/16/10 - 12:59 pm
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i see barry "build it and

i see barry "build it and they will come" white showed up. the center was hung up for several months in 2009? never mind the 4 YEARS that passed since this thing was approved. Hope it draws in visitors. The James Brown arena was too small to attract big acts, too big to properly maintain. I fear Augusta's done shot itself in the foot again with this thing. Aww, Deke put down the safety scissors and grabbed a big-boy shovel! Too cute!

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 06/16/10 - 01:00 pm
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deke must be the celebrity.

deke must be the celebrity. he sure aint one of the political shovel bearers.

Riverman1
86851
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Riverman1 06/16/10 - 02:00 pm
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It looks like the "TEE Center

It looks like the "TEE Center Groundbreaking" story with all the comments has been removed.

disssman
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disssman 06/16/10 - 02:17 pm
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Who is the Female "city

Who is the Female "city leader" in the photo? In fact who are aqctual "city leaders" in the photo. I consider people elected by the people as our leaders. I am glad to see that Alvin is so happy that 340 million is being spent within a one mile radius downtown. Maybe his replacement will see about spending some out in south Augusta. I guess he has fallen in lock step with the "stakeholders" downtown.

countyman
20581
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countyman 06/16/10 - 03:45 pm
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There is a $25 million

There is a $25 million vacational high school being built. The school will be located near Augusta Tech's campus. A $8 million bus depot is underway on Lumpkin rd and Mike Padgett. The Tennis Center is open at Diamond Lakes. The center has a pro shop, offers lessons, and a summer program for children.

All in South Augusta....

gaspringwater
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gaspringwater 06/16/10 - 03:59 pm
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Don't you get a laugh looking

Don't you get a laugh looking at pictures of dignitaries shoveling ground breaking dirt. They could get that much dirt out of their filing cabinets and they're always pictured wearing hard hats as a precaution against the sky falling on them.

mable8
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mable8 06/16/10 - 04:19 pm
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Again, why is the TEE Center

Again, why is the TEE Center necessary when there are so many other important things that need attending? Repairs and updates to existing schools, refurbishing playground equipment, repairing streets, neighborhood revitalization projects, building teen centers and providing these youth with appropriate leadership, and the list goes on. Seems like the monies are going to do nothing more than satisfy the whims of a very few who could care less about the real needs of a community. Furthermore, the events will be so outrageously overpriced, the citizen who will be stuck paying for this monstrosity will not even be able to attend the events. When people walk past the cornerstone of your new building and see your name, they will ask: Who the heck is that?? Then once the newness of the cornerstone wears off, no one will even notice there are names engraved on that stone--so where's your 'legacy' to the people?

Little Lamb
46900
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Little Lamb 06/16/10 - 04:19 pm
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Countyman wrote: There is a

Countyman wrote:

There is a $25 million vacational high school being built . . . near Augusta Tech's campus.

Now that's where I want to go to high school!

mable8
2
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mable8 06/16/10 - 04:19 pm
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Again, why is the TEE Center

Again, why is the TEE Center necessary when there are so many other important things that need attending? Repairs and updates to existing schools, refurbishing playground equipment, repairing streets, neighborhood revitalization projects, building teen centers and providing these youth with appropriate leadership, and the list goes on. Seems like the monies are going to do nothing more than satisfy the whims of a very few who could care less about the real needs of a community. Furthermore, the events will be so outrageously overpriced, the citizen who will be stuck paying for this monstrosity will not even be able to attend the events. When people walk past the cornerstone of your new building and see your name, they will ask: Who the heck is that?? Then once the newness of the cornerstone wears off, no one will even notice there are names engraved on that stone--so where's your 'legacy' to the people?

Little Lamb
46900
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Little Lamb 06/16/10 - 04:25 pm
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Indigo wrote: “I guess the

Indigo wrote: “I guess the commissioners involved are used to shoveling #%$# so the dirt was a nice change of pace.”

Countyman wrote: “None of those people with shovels are commissioners.”

Little Lamb wrote: “They are identified as ‘city leaders,’ and Fred (What, me worry?) Russell is nowhere to be seen.”

Emerydan
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Emerydan 06/16/10 - 05:27 pm
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Building a convention

Building a convention center... how 1980s. These ppl are aware that convention business is down sharply, especially in 3rd tier markets like Augusta. And building a convention center does not make a city a destination city. Even Vegas is having to offer huge discounts and incentives to lure conventions.. and its a destination city. Washington, DC spent over $1 BILLION on a new convention center and they have yet to see the big pay-off that boosters projected. Look for lots of wedding receptions and other local events that would have occurred here anyway. You have to get groups from outside the region to come here to make this thing worth the investment. I don't see that happening. Just think of what we could have used $38 million for.

localjay
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localjay 06/16/10 - 05:35 pm
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Investment in

Investment in Augusta-Richmond County...no matter the location...is good. TEE Center, schools, parks, depots, Kroc Center. They all provide jobs and services. Unlike many of you, I see all these as positives rather than negatives...

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/16/10 - 05:44 pm
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Convention centers are proven

Convention centers are proven losers as far as public investments go. The fact remains this tax money could have been better spent.

BuckeyeInGA
114
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BuckeyeInGA 06/16/10 - 06:22 pm
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Remodeling existing buildings

Remodeling existing buildings might have made more "cents".

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/16/10 - 06:29 pm
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Buckeye... that suggestion

Buckeye... that suggestion was made and completely ignored. Also interesting how the whole David Frye Bribery scandal seems to have completely dissappeared.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 06/16/10 - 06:32 pm
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That's probably the most

That's probably the most exercise Jerry Brigham has seen all year

Frank I
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Frank I 06/16/10 - 07:17 pm
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countyman: while it's

countyman: while it's entirely possible the video was not included when you made your post @ 12:45, it would appear based on the photo and the video that they had more than one "groundbreaking" ceremony.. @ 33 seconds in the video I can most assuredly see my District 1 Commissioner Aitken hoisting his shovel..

Emerydan: Don't know if you're picking and choosing the articles you comment on, but re:David Fry bribery you may want to read this side-note of an article posted today.. http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-06-16/indictment-bribery-c...

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 06/16/10 - 09:32 pm
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Largest waste of tax money we

Largest waste of tax money we have seen in many years. This ties up our hotel motel tax for 50 frigging years in one set of projects.

YAY!,

Brad

Riverman1
86851
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Riverman1 06/16/10 - 09:38 pm
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Brad, that's what many don't

Brad, that's what many don't get...the magnitude of this whole gamble that the research says won't work. We are into this for 50 YEARS.

Indigo
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Indigo 06/16/10 - 11:03 pm
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Countyman, WRONG AGAIN! Ole

Countyman, WRONG AGAIN! Ole Big-Boy is a shovelin' the dirt.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/16/10 - 11:26 pm
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Brad, that's my problem with

Brad, that's my problem with it. Did you know that hotel/motel taxes can be used to improve public transit? That's one area where Augusta really falls short, and can you imagine what a $38 million infusion into improving public transit could have done? But that's just one area.. I mean so much more could have been done with this money.. how about upgrading The Riverwalk? Creating an Arts District? Improved Lighting and parking downtown? I can think of a dozen more and better ways this money could have been better spent. The fact is this ties up nearly all of our hotel/motel money for 50 years when you add in the Laney-Walker-Bethlehem buy-off money for Beard's vote.

Emerydan
10
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Emerydan 06/16/10 - 11:31 pm
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And just about every place

And just about every place you go in the country where c ities have invested tens of millions of tax dollars in convention center expansion has shown that the investment has NOT paid off.. Thesae are losing propositions.. even for bigger cities that are more tourist oriented. How much you want to bet in 5 years they are going to come back before the commission wanting more money for expansion, saying the TEE Center just isn't big enough and they are not able to draw the conventions. This thing is going to be a huge money pit.

tnjsw
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tnjsw 06/17/10 - 12:04 am
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I moved from Augusta 42 years

I moved from Augusta 42 years ago but still keep up with the city. Sounds like the city leaders must be saying, "Damned if I do, Damned if I don't." You need to find someone in the city you can trust. City needs to get back to what it once was. A great place to live.

diamond in the rough
45
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diamond in the rough 06/17/10 - 08:11 am
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You know what you can't win

You know what you can't win in Augusta! Augusta is NOT boring....but if it was up to you..the people...it would be!! You need to travel and see other BIG cities...you'll be glad to come back home!! Wake up Augusta enjoy what you have!! Enjoy the progress!! STOP WHINING!!

Emerydan
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 10:00 am
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diamond.. I'm not aware of

diamond.. I'm not aware of anyone on this thread complaining that Augusta is boring, but we are getting tired of a local govt that continues to waste tax money on pie in the sky schemes that never pan out, yet can't seem to do the basic things. How much money has been wasted on these supposed tourist meccas over the last 20 years? What do we have to show for it? Just look at The Golf Hall of Fame fiasco. $20 million of our tax dollars essentially thrown into a mud hole. People are tired of it. And this is yet another waste of money, something that will rarely be used by locals and will not be the draw for tourists that its hyped to be. And why does Augusta have to be a tourist city? Come on, this is never going to be Charleston, Savannah, or Williamsburg, but this can be a very nice city to live in.

obkad
222
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obkad 06/17/10 - 10:20 am
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The TEE Center is another

The TEE Center is another failure for the city of Augusta. Once the facility is built, the city leaders will push for the downtown baseball stadium so they will have an excuse to announce that without the stadium Augusta won't be able to draw outside resources to come here. The leaders will admit that no one is using the TEE Center and the baseball stadium is a must to fill up the TEE Center.. It's coming just wait and see...The Kroc Center on the other hand is an outstanding investment for Augusta as it WILL make everyone proud for what has happened here....

Emerydan
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Emerydan 06/17/10 - 10:43 am
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obkad.. you've pretty much

obkad.. you've pretty much nailed it. I also would not overestimate the economic impact of the Kroc, but atleast it was paid for 100% from private donations.
What I cannot understand is this, we can keep throwing tens of millions on boondoggles like this yet cannot maintain The Riverwalk, can't fill potholes, can't keep the streets downtown clean and well lit, can't enforce building and zoning codes (supposedly because the dept is understaffed), and can't maintain even a minimally adequate public transit system for a city this size. Someone should tally up the total in taxpayer spending invested in all of these wonderful projects over the years that were supposed to bring throngs of people to Augusta. They have virtually all been expensive failures.. what do we have to show for all that money?

Lou Stewall
363
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Lou Stewall 06/17/10 - 11:49 am
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Not one private developer's

Not one private developer's crane downtown since Port Royal, about 20 years of self-inflicted stagnation. No property taxes will be paid on these projects and they are all tax or charity funded. The levee could be lowered by 20 ft. and still withstand a 100 year flood, according to the unreported $624K Cranston report. Let's invite private developers to bid on the land with permission to take the levee down to 10 feet tall. Maybe a project won't be abandoned like every other one.

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