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Top stories of 2013: Augusta Convention Center opens after long wait

Exhibit hall brings in more than $9 million in tourist spending

Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013 8:25 PM
Last updated 11:51 PM
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The Augusta Convention Center generated more than $9 million in direct visitor spending during its first year in business, according to operators of the downtown facility.

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The Augusta Convention Center got off to a rocky start, losing its first booking because of turmoil over operating agreements. But the facility ended up playing host to 34 events this year with an economic impact of $9.1 million.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
The Augusta Convention Center got off to a rocky start, losing its first booking because of turmoil over operating agreements. But the facility ended up playing host to 34 events this year with an economic impact of $9.1 million.

A dozen years in the making, the Reynolds Street center ended 2013 with 34 events that brought into the city 35,500 guests and an economic impact of $9.1 million, said Greg DeSandy, the director of sales and marketing of the Au­gusta Marriott at the Convention Cen­ter.

Direct visitor spending is calculated by the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau as revenue collected from hotel rooms, dining, shopping, transportation and other guest expenditures.

The $38 million exhibit hall garnered $2.9 million in direct visitor spending six months after it opened Feb. 28. Smaller events were held in the first half of the year, with larger bookings scheduled in the latter months of 2013.

One of the largest events at the 38,000-square-foot center this year involved the intermedix Ironman 70.3 in September. The Olmstead Exhibit Hall served as headquarters for athlete check-in and other
Ironman exhibits and merchandise booths.

The triathlon brought about 6,000 people and $4 million in visitor spending into the city.

Another big event for the center was the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s TechNet show, which was new to the area. More than 1,100 hotel rooms in the city were booked for the September event.

“We’re very pleased with the bookings and the events that have taken place,” said convention bureau Pres­i­dent and CEO Barry White. “We’ve seen tremendous response from
clients. They’re very impressed with the facility.”

DeSandy said the center has 16 confirmed bookings for 2014, which are expected to boost the local economy
by nearly $6.7 million and draw in nearly 13,000 attendees.

The facility, which was added to an existing ballroom and meeting space that adjoins the Marriott, was originally scheduled to open in January with a meeting of Georgia police chiefs. The group backed out after the Au­gusta Com­mission didn’t approve operating agreements for the center with Au­gusta Riverfront LLC, which runs the Marriott and shares management with Mor­ris Communications, owner of The Augusta Chron­icle.

Instead, a bridal expo was the first public event held at the center, on Feb. 24.

Voters approved funding of the project in 2005 by supporting a special purpose local option sales tax referendum. Since 2001, the convention bureau had contended that Augusta was losing events because of a lack of suitable meeting space. Construction of the center didn’t begin until 2010 because of commission disagreement.

In the year leading up to the center’s opening, commissioners quarreled over management agreements and terms for operating the convention center and parking garage.

ABOUT THE SERIES

SATURDAY: The merger of Georgia Health Sciences and Augusta State universities became official in 2013, but not without its share of controversies.

SUNDAY: A federal judge ended the Richmond County school system’s desegregation order after 40 years.

MONDAY: Five members of Evans-based vein procedures company The Vein Guys, including co-founder Steven Roth, were killed in a Feb. 20 plane crash at Thomson-McDuffie County Airport.

TUESDAY: The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office wanted to address traffic concerns in 2013 with Operation Thunder, and it did, to the chagrin of many motorists.

WEDNESDAY: The city’s transition to once-a-week garbage, recycling and yard waste collection did not go smoothly.

TODAY: After a dozen years in the making, the Augusta Convention Center opened in February.

DEC. 27: Safety concerns after high-profile assaults and a proposed slum designation catapulted downtown Augusta back into the spotlight in 2013.

DEC. 28: Delays in consultations led to the deaths of three cancer patients at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center.

DEC. 29: North Augusta officials approved a $144 million public-private development that would include a baseball stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets.

DEC. 30: Rain played
havoc with farmers,
event planners and others in record-setting fashion.

DEC. 31: After a year of discontent over his performance, Augusta Commission members fired longtime city Administrator Fred Russell in December.

Comments (26) Add comment
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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/25/13 - 09:45 pm
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Direct Visitor Spending

The "operator" of the TEE Center and the "executive director" of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau can calculate postulated spending any way the wish, but the whole venture is a house of cards. Taxpayers prop it up, and we suffer every time we go to the grocery store.

GnipGnop
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GnipGnop 12/25/13 - 10:35 pm
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Yeah, I'm gonna believe the numbers

that a guy that profits from a brand new kitchen paid for by tax dollars gives me.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/25/13 - 11:47 pm
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Most Discussed

Wow! This fluff piece popped up to second place in the "Most Discussed" list after only two posts. I wonder who is twerking with the algorithm?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/26/13 - 06:09 am
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Sorry, But It's An Abject Failure

Events that have come here previously using existing venues can hardly be attributed to the TEE Center. Some of those "34" events were small local gatherings such as family reunions where the people drove home after the meeting. It's disingenuous to claim those were events bringing in money to the city. They would have been in the backroom of the Laney Walker church if they hadn't used the TEE. It also appears there's a big drop-off in scheduled events for 2014.

In addition, hundreds of thousands a year are paid to market the TEE. Then we have the maintenance costs and parking deck where we pay the Marriott to park Marriott guests when the TEE is vacant 90% of the time.

Those are real dollars, not spending in the community. But, hey, it's here. Let's hope things turn around. Maybe the Cyber Command can schedule events in it even if Deke is looking for industry not associated with the nasty old fort.

Bodhisattva
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Bodhisattva 12/26/13 - 07:09 am
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How many were events that

How many were events that would have been held at the Bell, JB Arena, or another local facilty and just moved to the TEE? That's not generating any extra visitor spending, it's just moving it to a different facility (at the expense of the others I might add).

nocnoc
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nocnoc 12/26/13 - 08:06 am
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Prove the figures

As was pointed out earlier in the year revenue figures vs related spending figures are fact vs fiction.

It was not a hidden fact more that a few groups using the T-Center were more than likely NOT going to seek out Board St. entertainment.

QUESTIONS
Who was the real winner(s) here, we know it was the TAX Payers?
Show us who raked in the Revenue?
Who the NEW events that came to ARC because of the T-Center
What was the Original Projected cost of the T-Center?

Yes there are a lot questions & answers the Public best not learn
or be reminded of.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/26/13 - 08:41 am
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Not An Objective Article

"Instead, a bridal expo was the first public event held at the center, on Feb. 24."

And that half day bridal expo was held where previously? When was the last event of any kind held at the TEE? The parking garage costs how much? This was certainly not an unbiased article on the first year.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 08:37 am
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Please, AC, do a story on the

Please, AC, do a story on the multiplier that the Convention Bureau uses to calculate spending. We all would like to know. Many studies have been done to prove that the indicators are highly inflated in cities that use them.

David Parker
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David Parker 12/26/13 - 11:29 am
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Wow, sounds like their making

Wow, sounds like their making it hand over fist. With such a success, why did they need to raise taxes to pay for it? 9 million in one year, taxpayers should've seen a drop in their taxes. What gives?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/26/13 - 12:15 pm
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Basketball

The TEE Center calendar published on line shows an event called "Blue Star Basketball Tournament" scheduled for July 26 through 30. I didn't realize the TEE Center was equipped with basketball courts, bleachers, dressing rooms, etc. It seems Paul Simon thought of everything for us taxpayers to finance.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 11:57 am
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Now if they could only fill

Now if they could only fill the darn thing.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 12:02 pm
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But what I really don't

But what I really don't understand is why the dates are inflated- for instance, the GA Young Farmers. It says that it'll be at the TEE from January 29-February 2; but the convention is only for Jan 31-Feb 1.

Why is there a discrepancy in the dates?

Can anyone answer that?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/26/13 - 12:03 pm
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Why I say Not Objective

It's so pathetic that they had to admit that Ironman that has been coming here for years brought in $4M - which is almost half of the $9M they "stretched" to report as economic benefit - and the city owned Civic Center could have easily hosted that and earned itself and the city some operating income. The Marriott kept the money from any Ironman rentals of the space as well as filled up THEIR hotel directly because of the fact they were the registration headquarters thanks to their free gift from the city.

countyman
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countyman 12/26/13 - 12:03 pm
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Facts

The CVB in every city uses the same formula to calculate the visitor spending.. The $9 million doesn't include the $8 million Holiday Inn Express under construction or the multiple other private investments downtown..

The Technet conference was held in Augusta for the first time in 2013 and brought around 2,000 people downtown...

How many events is the exhibition hall in Grovetown attracting next year? How many events did the center attract this year? The comments related to the TEE are hilarious considering some of these same people were hyping up the exhibition hall near Grovetown...

David Parker... When did the city raise taxes to pay for the TEE Center?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/26/13 - 12:04 pm
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Basketball In TEE Center

"The TEE Center calendar published on line shows an event called "Blue Star Basketball Tournament scheduled for July 26 through 30."

I once joked they would probably end up playing basketball in the thing. Heh, heh, heh.

countyman
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countyman 12/26/13 - 12:17 pm
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Properties

The civic center has never hosted anything related to the Ironman and it wouldn't make any sense...

The TEE Center is the building connected to the Marriott hotels were many of the competitors are staying..

The Bell, JB Arena, and TEE Center all have different roles too..

The Bell is used for the smaller performances like the recent Dave Chapelle and the JB Arena is mostly geared towards larger concerts...

The James Brown Arena was ranked #7 for top venues between 5,000-10,000 seats earlier this year...
http://buzzon.biz/2013/08/global-spectrum-managed-james-brown-arena-reco...

Corgimom... The check in/check out dates are often different from the dates of the actual convention..

Riverman1
84956
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Riverman1 12/26/13 - 12:22 pm
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Did the Tattoo Festival spill

Did the Tattoo Festival spill ink on the carpets.

David Parker
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David Parker 12/26/13 - 01:28 pm
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If there were no tax revenues

If there were no tax revenues involved in the funding of the TEE, I stand corrected Cman. U sure though? Let's not split hairs and say the parking deck isn't part of it, b/c it is in my book and was a boondoggle in and of itself as well.

David Parker
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David Parker 12/26/13 - 01:50 pm
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re: http://buzzon.biz/2013/08/global-spectrum-managed-james-brow

where is the list? I found a site here: http://www.venuestoday.com/smp100 that listed alot of venues in the different capacities but didn't see JB arena in there. I saw the article where it says they are in there, but just can't find a list. Would be nice to see who competes with it.

I get it now. It was just for the second quarter of 2013 and I was looking at a current list. So historically, when they had the business in there, they made the list for the CSRA's #7 venue of 5-10k? I suppose. Didn't know there were more than 7 venues that hold over 10k people in the csra.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/26/13 - 02:29 pm
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"The check in/check out dates

"The check in/check out dates are often different from the dates of the actual convention.."

So why does the Convention Center say the conventions are going on those dates if they are only check in/out dates for the Marriott? Is this another example of the lines being blurred with the Marriott and the Center?

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 06:44 pm
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"The CVB in every city uses

"The CVB in every city uses the same formula to calculate the visitor spending"

How do you know that, Countyman?

You mean to tell me that New York City, San Francisco, San Diego, uses the same multipliers as Augusta GA?

Please tell me where you got that fact, because the hotel rooms in those cities have vastly different room rates than Augusta GA.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 06:46 pm
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Corgimom... The check

Corgimom... The check in/check out dates are often different from the dates of the actual convention..

Can you please tell me, Countyman, why other convention centers don't post check in/check out dates on their calendars?

I invite you to look at San Diego and Charlotte, for just two examples. Because I did, and THEY don't inflate their dates.

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 06:47 pm
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I am waiting with bated

I am waiting with bated breath for Countyman's answers!

corgimom
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corgimom 12/26/13 - 06:48 pm
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And I wonder if the CVB knows

And I wonder if the CVB knows that Countyman is supplying these answers when he has no idea of what he is talking about?

GnipGnop
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GnipGnop 12/26/13 - 09:07 pm
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Oh no....

he only deals in facts...isn't that his mantra?

corgimom
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corgimom 12/27/13 - 12:05 am
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Hey, Countyman, could you

Hey, Countyman, could you please explain why there are several formulas that can be used in calculating economic impact, and how it is that you know that every city in the US uses the same one?

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