Civic center still struggling to compete

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If it seems like a lot of fun and exciting events have been staged at the USC-Aiken Convocation Center lately, you're right.

If you suspect a lot of it has to do with the facility being new, you're probably right about that, too.

But Augusta officials can't leave any stone unturned in determining whether the Aiken facility, and those in other cities in the two-state area, are simply outperforming Augusta's James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium.

If so, price may be one reason: Our sources indicate a Golden Harvest Food Bank fund-raising concert Oct. 9 featuring The Charlie Daniels Band could have been slated for the Bell in Augusta - but the much older facility's price tag was $6,000 higher than that of the brand new convocation center in Aiken.

A new facility - for $6,000 less. What would you do?

You also have to wonder if the Aiken center's well-connected management company, Global Spectrum, is responsible for a lot of the traffic over there, which has included a concert by Kenny Rogers.

In addition, we've compared Web sites for seven entertainment complexes in Georgia and South Carolina - Columbus, Gwinnett, Macon, Aiken, Columbia, Greenville and Augusta - and there's no getting around the fact that Augusta's is just plain ugly (www.augustaciviccenter.com).

It's not just ugly; it's not terribly functional, either. Ticket buying is not at all a prominent feature on the site; and the two small links on the site inviting people to buy tickets through Ticketmaster didn't work when we tried them.

One other glaring omission on the Web site: James Brown. They've named the arena after him, yet Brown's image is nowhere to be found. Not even the name "James Brown Arena" is in evidence; it's still called the civic center on the Web site.

We asked one of our in-house Web site professionals to rank the seven Web sites for appearance, navigability and content. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, Columbia's Colonial Center got a 9, as did Greenville's Bi-Lo Center and the USC-Aiken Convocation Center. Macon and Columbus received an 8. Gwinnett got a 6.

Augusta's got a 1.

Why "1" as opposed to "0"?

"Because it's up and running. It's there," the expert said.

Talk about damning with faint praise.

You just can't compete like that in this day and age.

Moreover, the suffocating government bureaucracy of the Augusta Richmond County Civic Center is a poor model for today's dynamic entertainment complex management. Indeed, only recently did the Coliseum Authority give civic center manager Robert "Flash" Gordon express authority to book acts without board approval.

It was only in May that the board voted to begin expending money on promotion of concerts and other events. And even then, they only appropriated $125,000.

And just this June, the board decided to advertise the civic center on television.

For his part, Gordon disputes the reported price differential between the Bell and USC-Aiken center for the Golden Harvest benefit. "That's hard to believe," he said. "We gave them a sweetheart deal. (Price) is not the reason. We will do our best. We're promoter-friendly."

As for the Web site, Gordon was eager to compare his to the other six we cited. And he said a new logo and Web site could be expected in the weeks to come.

In fairness to Gordon, he hasn't been on the job all that long. And he inherited a pretty doggone under-performing facility.

But you have to wonder: Why isn't the facility and the oversight authority more in tune with the competition? Shouldn't they have a good idea already what the competition's Web sites look and feel like? And how poorly theirs stacks up?

And why in heaven would you turn on the lights for such a facility and not give the management wide latitude to book events until now?

We realize Gordon's new powers, and the board's newfound interest in marketing, haven't yet had time to bear fruit. And we support these efforts, as well as Gordon.

But the vast disparity in the Web sites, and the Aiken facility's early successes, make it clear Augusta still isn't competitive in the industry.

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coco rubio
53
Points
coco rubio 08/12/07 - 03:24 am
0
0
yup, we need to do some

yup, we need to do some work.......but, i still would like to see more than just kenny rogers & charlie daniels in aiken.....i saw where the blues festival tanked at the convocation center in aiken....and omarrion canceled there too.....what other "big acts" do they have coming? i do think that the bell could be used more regularly to bring in national acts.......the civic center however needs to be bulldozed completely......a new building built....and the colesium authority disolved........but what are the chances of these things happening?

SANTA CLAUS JR
0
Points
SANTA CLAUS JR 08/12/07 - 04:43 am
0
0
i saw on crawdaddy sept.

i saw on crawdaddy sept. forgot the date the ojays were coming big crap.still had it as civic center.

SANTA CLAUS JR
0
Points
SANTA CLAUS JR 08/12/07 - 04:52 am
0
0
ojays sept.8 7 30 pm;big bad

ojays sept.8 7 30 pm;big bad voodoo daddy bell auditorium. april 17 2008.who the hell cares.you can watch all the concerts on dvds.i wouldn't pay 50 dollas unless it was the beatles rolling stones led zeppelin acdc or alvin and the chipmunks.people in augusta wait till the last minute to get tickets or get free tickets from radio stations.and the eagles are boring as hell dave mathews sux.rap is a waste of time.all the time i went i either won tickets are get them free somehow.don't give away tickets. z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z z

SANTA CLAUS JR
0
Points
SANTA CLAUS JR 08/12/07 - 05:00 am
0
0
good idea new building.if

good idea new building.if people don't come now what does having color toilit paper and a clean seat got to do with anything.most people like to go on trips to concerts.go to atlanta etc. use it as the james brown school of music or the regency mall.i'll go watch my dvd concerts i recorded from my friends collection.i don't buy cd's either.at least the ed turner and no.9 is worth going to.gunsmoke on behalf of the group i hope we passed the audition.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/12/07 - 05:53 am
0
0
people in Augusta have been

people in Augusta have been trained over the years to get tickets at the last minute. So many cancellations and so much hassle to get refunds (when you could) makes most cautious. Also, something needs to be done about apparent security around the civic center. Many are frightened of the neighborhood. The civic center has a long difficult history to overcome.

jack
10
Points
jack 08/12/07 - 08:47 am
0
0
The Civic Center just needs

The Civic Center just needs to be torn down and replaced with a much better facility that accomodates all kinds of entertainment from boxing to opera.

nyquil
0
Points
nyquil 08/12/07 - 09:46 am
0
0
This is Augusta. The

This is Augusta. The taxpayers will never go for a new civic center. It's very sad that other cities are getting new facilities, drawing big name acts, but here's Augusta drawing a trade show here and there and having a concert by an artist that 50% of people had never heard of cancelled.

Augusta will never be decent until the taxpayers wake up. It's being proven every day.

bp101
0
Points
bp101 08/12/07 - 10:10 am
0
0
I would love to see a new

I would love to see a new arena for augusta. Oh wait, we tried that already and it was shot down by the voters. Why cant the "second largest city in Georgia" act like it. We are constantly outclassed by Columbus, Macon, Savannah, etc... A new baseball stadium downtown which could be used year round for concerts and other outdoor shows. The reaction of the people is that is ridiculous. A new arena so we can atrract some national acts. No way say the taxpayers. Oh, but lets build this stupid little dragstrip that no one wants in their neighborhood for a small group of enthusiastic supporters. Thats a great idea? Augusta will eventually self destruct with the inept leadership we have and too many backwards thinking individuals in this community. The tax base will continue to dwindle as people move to citys that act like they have a little class.

SugarFoot
0
Points
SugarFoot 08/12/07 - 12:08 pm
0
0
I would like to see a new

I would like to see a new arena in Augusta too.. but not in that god awful location that was proposed two years ago (Regency Mall). Take a cue from Greenville,SC and Columbus, GA and build it downtown... but not on the fringe of downtown.. but somewhere more central. Sure the current arena is downtown.. but it's out of the way. Put it no more than a block or two from Broad Street.. either along the river or around Ellis St. With all of the abandoned property downtown.. this could be a great opportunity to give downtown a facelift.IT would also compliment the many restaurants and pubs that have opened downtown in the past several years.

RonRoberts
66
Points
RonRoberts 08/12/07 - 12:24 pm
0
0
A nwe, 15,000-17,500 seat

A nwe, 15,000-17,500 seat arena SHOULD be built within walking distance to the newer downtown hotels and convention space. Problem is, there's not much land and/or space to do that. Next-best solution is somewhere near I-20 and Bobby Jones.

But MOST importantly, governmental oversight has to be less suffocating. Bickering egos and self-interests (and insufficiently-credentialled board members) have made running the current Civic Center all but impossible.

But it was flawed from the day it opened because fiscal whackjobs in the 1970s were more concerned with the price of building the venue. That proved to be VERY short-sighted, because the undersized facility now costs the city MORE because it's not large enough to compete for shows, and thus sell more tickets.

Folks, don't make that mistake again. Cities of comparable size get top-tier concerts and trade shows, they enjoy AF2 (Arena Football League minor league) football (which Augusta once had, and now has a knock-off league). Augusta is getting out-classes by newer facilities in Gwinnett, Columbia, SC, Greenville, SC and North Charleston, SC. They're even being outdone for shows and conventions by smaller venues

SugarFoot
0
Points
SugarFoot 08/12/07 - 01:05 pm
0
0
There is plenty of room for a

There is plenty of room for a downtown arena.. have you seen all of the boarded up buildings? Knock them down and build and arena. Block off a street. There is plenty of emptiness downtown that needs to be filled. Other cities with denser development in their downtowns have managed to find space for an arena.. it really doesn't have to take up a huge amount of space.

JTDagupan
0
Points
JTDagupan 08/12/07 - 01:41 pm
0
0
Another reason why I got out

Another reason why I got out of Augusta.

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 08/12/07 - 01:42 pm
0
0
Move it out of the ghetto

Move it out of the ghetto where people with money will feel safe and will enjoy going to it.
A name change would be helpful as well.

sjgraci
2
Points
sjgraci 08/12/07 - 03:03 pm
0
0
I pretty much agree with the

I pretty much agree with the editorial but their "expert" gave the Civic Center a 1. Come on, that's a bit of sensationalism. From that, one would expect to find a single uninformative page. The site is oudated but it is not much worse than some of the others and a 5 year old could easily navigate it. A rating of a 5 or 6 would have been more appropriate. Maybe the Chronicle is upset because they and their "expert" do not have the Civic Center's web design business? Updating it and making it a bit more flashy should be an easy fix.

Little Lamb
47011
Points
Little Lamb 08/13/07 - 07:52 am
0
0
Which downtown restaurant do

Which downtown restaurant do you work for, SugarFoot?

jlaud12
0
Points
jlaud12 08/20/07 - 09:58 am
0
0
I have been to the Columbus

I have been to the Columbus Civic Center. It is a beautiful building. Augusta should take note because Columbus will be bigger than Augusta by 2010.

Little Lamb
47011
Points
Little Lamb 08/20/07 - 10:22 am
0
0
And Jlaud12, most of the

And Jlaud12, most of the Columbus Civic Center was paid for with private funds. Columbus area businessmen and women wished to "give back" to the citizens of Columbus, so they donated millions of dollars for the center, and it is a world-class performing arts center. In Augusta, our wealthy businessmen are too stingy to finance such a venture. They want the taxpayers to be saddled witht he entire burden.

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