Now match the energy

Better facilities are needed to complement downtown's increased bustle

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You needed to be a rabbit Thursday night in downtown Augusta, because it was hopping – and you likely had to park a ways from your destination.

Two events in particular filled the area with the energy of a huge enthusiastic crowd: The Winter Jam Tour Spectacular multi-act Christian concert at James Brown Arena, and the Symphony Orchestra Augusta concert featuring music legend Ronnie Milsap.

Approaching James Brown Arena on foot, there were dozens of disappointed fans walking the other way who were turned away from the huge sellout.

In other words, there were more people than places available for them. The vibrancy downtown Thursday night was absolutely exhilarating. In
national rankings of cities that routinely put Augusta near the top for quality of life, it’s difficult to measure the kind of energy and vigor that was in the air.

Here’s hoping the facilities and infrastructure can someday soon be upgraded to match the vim.

This is decidedly true with regard to the Bell Auditorium. Its chairs, restrooms and other accoutrements are hopelessly outdated and unsuited to the cachet of most of the acts and audiences it hosts. It does not come close to doing justice to the Augusta area’s appetite and appreciation for the arts, or the size and increasingly cosmopolitan flavor of the CSRA.

Nor does it reflect this community’s aspirations of excellence.

And when the Bell and Brown have simultaneous events, good luck finding a parking place. While that’s a nice problem to have, it’s still a problem. We do a great disservice to attendees – particularly those from out of town – when they are needlessly required to walk for blocks, without guidance, to park in poorly marked street spaces in order to attend an event here.

That walk can be somewhat treacherous, too: The state of sidewalks in the area is abysmal, and of significant danger especially to women in high heels.

Meanwhile, Augusta continues to miss out on a mammoth opportunity to bring more people closer to the downtown riverfront. We have acres and acres of unused and under-utilized riverfront property in the heart of downtown that most American cities would give anything to develop and put to use.

The symphony has designs on renovating the grand old Miller Theater on Broad Street – and it should be an elegant venue. But there can be no doubt, particularly after Thursday night, that this city desperately needs a state-of-the-art performing arts center – and it needs to have its own footprint, away from the arena, in order to provide parking and reasonable ingress and egress.

The riverfront would be a logical, beautiful place for it.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver recently mentioned ongoing discussions about a new performing arts center in his State of the City address. We hope discussions move along as briskly as Thursday’s excited pedestrians.

Downtown Augusta was brimming with eager arts lovers last week. What will it be like when we go all out?

Comments (9) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 02/18/13 - 05:36 am
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Valid Impressions

For a minute I thought I was reading a post by a regular commenter. Heh. I don't think the Winter Jam crowd was out hitting the bars afterwards, but, seriously, all those things you suggest are nice. The Bell and the JB have problems in that area with parking, sidewalks and so on in addition to the facilities. It doesn't hurt to point out your impressions and suggestions.

It takes an overwhelmingly popular event to fill the JB or Bell. People will overlook all the negatives you described for certain events, but those on the fence about attending tend to be influenced in a negative way and stay home for lesser acts.

Techfan
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Techfan 02/18/13 - 06:11 am
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"this city desperately needs

"this city desperately needs a state-of-the-art performing arts center" Yes it does. What it does not need is another multi-use facility shaped like a gymnasium that holds a rodeo one week and a concert the next. That means a facility where when you have all seats facing the stage with a unobstructed view of the the stage. One where if you have first row balcony or mezzanine seats, you're sitting to close the stage above a good portion of the floor seats, not the length of a hockey rink away. It will need excellent lighting and an excellent sound system. A large enough stage designed for theatrical performances with crossovers, traps, a fly system, catwalks, etc. and enough space for large performances. It'll also need adequate dressing rooms and backstage areas for the cast and props. If the plans are for an exibition space, hockey games, or horse funtions, forget it. We have those already. A state of the art performing arts theater with say 4,000-6,000 seats would be a jewel for the city.

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 02/18/13 - 07:59 am
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The city would have come out

The city would have come out much better if they had spent $100 million on this instead of the TEE Center. I guess the powers that be didn't own enough land or have enough tie ins to make money off of building a performing arts center.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/18/13 - 08:11 am
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Hold On

Techfan, the Augusta Symphony is renovating a place that will fit your requirements. Just wait a while and you will be happy. Oh yes, they are using a lot of tax dollars to do the renovations, so that should make you doubly happy.

Little Lamb
48005
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Little Lamb 02/18/13 - 08:16 am
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Not a Problem

From the editorial:

And when the Bell and Brown have simultaneous events, good luck finding a parking place.

How often does that occur — maybe once or twice a year? When I go to an event at the Bell and things are crowded, I usually park at the Marble Palace parking lot. It's well lit and not far away.

By the way, I was downtown Friday during business hours. I made stops first at the Marble Palace and then four different businesses. I had absolutely no problem finding parking spaces at each stop. Margaret Woodard is completely off her rocker for saying there is a parking problem downtown.

Techfan
6461
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Techfan 02/18/13 - 08:21 am
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I believe the Miller only has

I believe the Miller only has 1,400 or so seats.

CobaltGeorge
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CobaltGeorge 02/18/13 - 09:29 am
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News For Ga Gun Owners

Today at 2 PM in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building next to the Capitol in Atlanta, pro-gun bills HB 28 and 29 will be heard before the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

HB 28 and 29, both introduced by GGO member and State Representative Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw), would repeal two government-created Criminal Safe Zones in Georgia.

HB 28 would repeal the government's restriction on carrying firearms in places of worship.

HB 29 would repeal the government's prohibition on carrying on Georgia's college and university campuses.

alan.powell@house.ga.gov; darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov; alex.atwood@house.ga.gov; bill.hitchens@house.ga.gov; dustin.hightower@house.ga.gov; eddie.lumsden@house.ga.gov; gerald.greene@house.ga.gov; jay.neal@house.ga.gov; kevin.cooke@house.ga.gov; willie.talton@house.ga.gov

If you would rather make a call, all of their phone numbers are listed below:

Rep. Powell: 404-463-3793
Rep. Taylor: 404-656-0178
Rep. Neal: 404-656-5138
Rep. Cooke: 404-656-0188
Rep. Atwood: 404-656-0152
Rep. Hitchens: 404-656-0178
Rep. Hightower: 404-656-0152
Rep. Lumsden: 404-656-0325
Rep. Greene: 404-656-0202
Rep. Talton: 404-656-5105

dichotomy
36290
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dichotomy 02/18/13 - 10:14 am
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"Better facilities are needed

"Better facilities are needed to complement downtown's increased bustle"

Fine.....please raise ticket prices to pay for them. The taxpayers are tapped out......especially for "development" dollars that never seem to reach their area.

I'd like to see them "develop" this muddy ditch and broken driveway culvert in from of my house but that apparently ain't happening either. Of course I'm "south of Spirit Creek" so I know I don't count except for when it's time to pass out tax bills.

avidreader
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avidreader 02/18/13 - 11:12 am
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Nice Editorial!

Milsap was excellent, and it was nice to see Augusta's own Jamie Brantley perfoming with him. The Bell and JB (as RM1 refers) are essential to Augusta's growth and prestige.

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