First event is booked for 2013

The city's trade, exhibit and event center has its first official booking, the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau announced Tuesday.

The Georgia Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities will hold its annual conference at the TEE center in September 2013, bringing at least $429,000 to the area, according to estimates from the bureau.

"This is the size group that we're hoping for, with about 525 delegates and a trade show component," said Peggy Seigler, the CVB's vice president of sales and marketing. "This will really be the piece that we will be able to fit in the TEE center that we haven't been able to fit in Augusta before."

The last time the group held its annual conference in Augusta was 2008, but the meeting had outgrown the city's facilities, said Jake Oglesby, the site selection chairman for the association and the executive director of the Augusta Housing Authority.

"The last time we were here, our exhibitors were kind of scattered about in separate rooms," Oglesby said. "They weren't in one big facility, so they didn't like that too much. Generally, when you have exhibitors at your conference, they all like to be together in one big space."

The 2008 conference in Augusta drew 450 participants, compared with the group's conference this year in Savannah, which yielded a record 525 delegates and 50 exhibitors.

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is targeting groups that have previously held events in Augusta, in addition to new ones, Seigler said.

"We have been keeping a list of groups that have grown out of our existing space, so we've known a few to check up on," she said.

The $38 million TEE center project on Reynolds Street is slated for completion in spring 2012. Many groups are already planning ahead for 2012 and 2013, Seigler said, and the bureau hopes to have a 45 percent occupancy rate after the TEE center opens in 2012 and then steadily reach for an industry standard 60 percent.