Changes in seating promoted

New club seating and a lounge at James Brown Arena could generate $250,000 to $300,000 in additional annual revenue for the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, officials said Tuesday.

The project includes a seating section with wider, upholstered seats along the lower west sideline, a club lounge behind them, and access between the lounge and seats, according to a proposal from Odell Sports & Entertainment, which offered to design the project for $15,060.

Design and construction of the project must fit within the authority's existing $5 million budget for improvements at the arena and Bell Auditorium, or it might have to be abandoned, authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said.

On Tuesday, the authority named its two top choices for the architectural and engineering firm for the project: Augusta firms Dickinson Architects and Woodhurst.

Board member Shirley Darby asked whether the local firms couldn't design the club seating and lounge work just as well. General Manager Monty Jones said Odell and Loudermilk Group were recommended by the authority's management firm, Global Spectrum and are experts in the field.

Despite being privately managed, the facilities continue to operate at a loss, with a loss of $634,267 last year, and Johnson said it was critical to focus on ways to cut expenses and generate revenue.

"It's important for us ... to run this just like it was our own household," he said. "It needs to be the focus of what we're trying to do."

A down economy saw the number of events under budget again last month, but Global Spectrum will make up the numbers soon with big acts such as the Augusta Futurity, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, and singers Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban, Jones said.