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Gateway exhibition center on track for May completion

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Columbia County’s new exhibition hall doesn’t have a name yet, but officials say it’s on track to open in May.

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The exhibition hall at Gateway shopping center near Grovetown, with a 15,000-square-foot trade show floor, is expected to open during May.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
The exhibition hall at Gateway shopping center near Grovetown, with a 15,000-square-foot trade show floor, is expected to open during May.

The $7.3 million, 47,000-square-foot building is under construction by Augusta-based McKnight Con­struc­tion Co. in Gate­way shopping center near Grove­town.

The Family Y will be the first occupants, leasing a portion of the building for a fitness center under a five-year, $1.3 million lease.

“I couldn’t be more excited about it,” said Danny Mc­Connell, the president and CEO of The Family Y. “It’s going to
be a nice facility once it’s opened.”

The rest of the building will have more transient tenants as the county markets the 15,000-square-foot trade show floor and adjoining conference rooms to event planners, said Sandy Boner, the manager of the county’s Rentals and Facilities Department.

The trade show floor is more than twice as large as the county’s current largest room at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, Boner said while conducting a hard-hat tour.

A concrete pad outside the main trade show space allows exterior exhibits for such events as boat or garden shows, she said.

Construction workers are finishing brickwork on the exterior, while drywall crews finish sheetrock interior walls as they’re built.

Even before it’s finished, Boner said, there’s plenty of interest in using the facility.

“We started talking to people about this almost three years ago,” Boner said. “Not only did we have several groups that had really outgrown Sa­vannah Rapids, but we’ve got others who’ve contacted us.”

Most of those plans are on hold while the county completes facility details, she said. After that’s done, the fee schedules and list of amenities will be finished and ready to present to customers.

“I think it’s going to be great,” said county commission Chairman Ron Cross. The conference center will open up bookable dates at Savannah Rapids, he added.

The building, down the hill behind Wal-Mart, has arched accents and tall windows along the front. The Family Y entrance is on one end, and the county portion has entrances.

The main entry, on the other end from the Y, opens to a lobby with a reception desk, then to a large, carpeted “pre-reception” area. The main exhibition hall will have a finished concrete floor, Boner said.

The exhibition hall can be divided into two rooms with separate entries. The three meeting rooms also are accessed from the pre-reception area, and movabl walls will allow it to open into one larger room large enough to seat about 150 people, Boner said.

The county hopes the facility’s traffic and proximity to Interstate 20’s Lewiston Road exit will attract a hotel.

For the Y, the opening will give it an opportunity to reach out to the fast-growing Grove­town area.

“There’s been a lot of interest, but we really haven’t had a facility in Grovetown,” McCon­nell said. “I couldn’t feel better about it at this point. I think it’ll do very well for us once it opens.”


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