Plan could help shape 'theater district,' Augusta

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Leaders from both Augusta and North Augusta will be unveiling a joint new 20-year master plan Feb. 4.

It can't come soon enough.

In recent years, we've flirted with building a race track in south Augusta or a canal through downtown, looked into a baseball stadium, studied a cable-car system for Broad Street, wondered what to do with the old Golf and Gardens (if we can get the land from the state) and discussed a number of other ideas big and small.

In short, we've been all over the map.

Now the Augusta Commission is putting together a list of projects that could be funded with the next round of the special purpose local option sales tax. One of the items on the list is the restoration of the Miller Theater on Broad Street.

The grand dame is in great disrepair since being closed in the 1980s after being opened to great fanfare in 1940 and, among other things, hosting the world premiere of The Three Faces of Eve .

Local entrepreneur and civic benefactor Peter S. Knox IV bought the surprisingly spacious old girl in 2005 and repaired the roof to prevent further weather damage -- and now, amazingly, has agreed to actually give it to the Augusta Symphony.

What an incredible gift from an exceedingly generous soul. And no one who tours the Miller today comes out of it with anything but a desire to save and restore it.

There's some confusion as to whether the $6 million allocated for Miller restoration should be shared with the Augusta Mini-Theater. That needs to be worked out by the two parties or, if need be, by commissioners.

Regardless, some have suggested the Miller could be part of larger theater district that includes the already restored and operating Imperial Theater -- and even a new and larger state-of-the-art performing arts center on the river.

Could the "theater district" be big enough and strong enough to support all that? That argument is being made. It will be more than a little interesting to find out what the master plan concludes when it's unveiled Feb. 4.

Our feeling is that it would be terrific if they're right -- and the theater district could have room for the old and the new. It would be a terrible shame to lose the Miller now.

Still, it would be a greater sin if, by restoring the Miller, we lose either momentum or public support for a new state-of-the-art performing arts center. If we have to choose, a newer, larger, modern performance hall is the way to go.

But perhaps we won't have to choose after all.

We look forward to the master plan shedding some light on this -- and guiding the Augusta Commission in its assignment of SPLOST money.

Comments (22) Add comment
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Brad Owens
4727
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Brad Owens 01/25/09 - 04:24 am
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Let me see, spend $6-12

Let me see, spend $6-12 million to restore a classic theater that could become an icon for downtown, The Miller, OR spend $40 million on a 'state-of-the-art' performing arts center on thr river? I wonder if Mr. Morris' falling property values on the river need another tax funded boost? The Miller deserves the money and will be a RESTORED asset for a proven group. The performing arts center is not needed and would suck up all the funds that could do so many smaller quality of life improvments all over the county. Also, these 'Master-Plans' in Augusta usually get ignored by the Masters on the commission anyway.

iletuknow
8
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iletuknow 01/25/09 - 07:07 am
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Well at least we are off the

Well at least we are off the subject of satisfying the "ball people".

Riverman1
87033
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Riverman1 01/25/09 - 07:28 am
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The Three Face of Eve is an

The Three Face of Eve is an apt metaphor for the debate. Eve White, Eve Black and Jane. We have the quiet and respectful Miller, the wild side of town Mini Theater and a new Jane with a positive attitude and image on the river. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I'll recommend one if the Commission decides most of the money to build an arts center for Augusta should go out on Deans Bridge Rd.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 01/25/09 - 08:22 am
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A plan, a 20 year plan, how

A plan, a 20 year plan, how un-commissioner like. Can the "Clowns of Downtown" finally be getting a clue. I sure hope so. It's good to see the commissioners take a step in the right direction.

story1
802
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story1 01/25/09 - 09:23 am
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The Mini Theatre and Augusta

The Mini Theatre and Augusta Symphony will work together for a better Augusta. This is an important time for bringing entertainment back to our community and the commissioners are just asking the right questions. We now have a terrific team of commissioners leading our city/community.

SandyK2005
1
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SandyK2005 01/25/09 - 09:38 am
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"Still, it would be a greater

"Still, it would be a greater sin if, by restoring the Miller, we lose either momentum or public support for a new state-of-the-art performing arts center. If we have to choose, a newer, larger, modern performance hall is the way to go." ----- Public involvement means the entertainment is scaled for everyone. The Augusta Lynx experiment is an example of how and why such enterprises fail -- it's aimed only for a small market who's interested and can afford it. Augusta is backwards when it comes to entertainment, it focuses too much on what the Churches believe is appropriate -- while Augustans goto Columbia or Atlanta (taking their money with them) to see what Augusta bans. I went to the Tears For Fears concert at the Lakewood Ampitheater back in '92, and came back saying -- "This is what Augusta needs". Why? It was beautiful -- open night sky; cocktail tables up front; drinking wine (not beer, WINE); people eating from fondue pots in the stands ------ AND THIS IS A R-O-C-K CONCERT!!!!!! None of the riots and mischief associated in big named concerts, but people enjoying themselves. Why? The appropriate environment. Augusta can do it, and Augustans can get the perks if they did.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 01/25/09 - 11:12 am
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Maybe if Mr Morris and his

Maybe if Mr Morris and his newspaper had gotten behind a new peforming arts center 4 years ago, instead of pushing his ludicrous and outrageous $100 million Billy Barn arena at Regency Mall, then we would already have shows booked at a "new state of the art facility on the river." The way I look at it, the Miller could be Augusta's version of Atlanta's Fox theater.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 01/25/09 - 11:54 am
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Saving the Miller is a very

Saving the Miller is a very ambitious cause and a very good one...I hope ya'll can do it...but please North Augusta Please do not get the City involved with Anything in augusta.....nothing good can come from getting down in the dirt with those guys..........

sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 01/25/09 - 12:34 pm
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The Augusta Lynx failed

The Augusta Lynx failed because of poor ownership and management. The fans were and are still there; they quit buying what the team was selling which was a very bad product. As far as the theory of catering to a small market goes, hockey games are much more family oriented than symphonies and concerts, more affordable too. I guarantee you the Lynx packed more people into the JBA in their 10 plus year existence than the symphony has, area concerts have, or a restored Miller will in its first 10 years. That being said, I'm all for the Miller being fully restored and will vote for the SPLOST funds should it come to that. I'm also for a new hockey team which, in all likelihood, has an even greater chance of happening than a restored Miller or new performing arts theatre... without SPLOST funds I might add.

disssman
6
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disssman 01/25/09 - 12:43 pm
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How can they have a 20 year

How can they have a 20 year plan when they don't have a clue about what to fund today. I say tell us what the priority for funding is in this economy and make the budget a document that the public can read and understand. This is the computer age after all and we spend millions for an IT department so use it.

gcap
290
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gcap 01/25/09 - 01:14 pm
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Too bad the Miller is in

Too bad the Miller is in Richmond County. It'll be years before the Commission makes up its mind. By then, new commissioners will be elected and they will change things. It's a never ending cycle. Look at Aiken. They've built a very nice venue and have lots going on all the time. I say Columbia County needs to get in the theatre and major venue business. We have the patrons, the space, the money, and a get-it-done attitude once we've decided to move. Look at the CC library. Conceived, built, and in business all within the same time frame that the Augusta Richmond County Commission was trying to decide what to do with the Augusta Library. So much potential in Augusta, so few willing to make it happen.

SandyK2005
1
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SandyK2005 01/25/09 - 01:35 pm
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"The Augusta Lynx failed

"The Augusta Lynx failed because of poor ownership and management. The fans were and are still there; they quit buying what the team was selling which was a very bad product." ----- That they fell so fast says there wasn't enough to support the experiment. The Braves had some very lean years in their days (let alone the Falcons), but they had enough interest to not get up and leave to another city, despite management problems.

gcap
290
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gcap 01/25/09 - 02:38 pm
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Sandy, for once you make a

Sandy, for once you make a slight point about the Atlanta teams. But this ain't Atlanta. And the management problems in our Coliseum are far more serious than any the Braves or Falcons could ever have imagined. I still say Columbia County can build venues and attract teams and events long before Richmond County can reach a consensus. Maybe you can get an appointment on the Coliseum Authority or, better yet, the group creating this master plan. Get a first hand look at what you seem so often to defend -- government incompetence.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 01/25/09 - 02:47 pm
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Aint nothing good happened in

Aint nothing good happened in Disgusta since 1968

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 01/25/09 - 04:04 pm
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Is that when you moved here

Is that when you moved here HillGuy? Wasn't that about the time the Dirt Band renamed Augusta?

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 01/25/09 - 06:10 pm
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The Dirt Band song American

The Dirt Band song American Dream was in the late 70s I believe... but they never called Augusta... Disgusta.... the line of the song was "Augusta, GA is just no place to be." The nickname Disgusta was coined by soldiers who were stationed here back in the 50s.. possibly earlier, but it most definately originated from military personnel. But I do believe 1968 was the tipping point for the city of Augusta, esp downtown..things have generally detriorated in the city since that time.

jack
10
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jack 01/25/09 - 07:21 pm
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Sigraci, of course a theater

Sigraci, of course a theater devoted to the fine arts would not appeal to a red neck, beer drinker like you. You and the other red necks around Augusta still have the JBA for your cuhuntry Westens to play in. Thank you Mr Knox and let's move forward. I never saw an empty Augusta Symphony concert. On the ohter hand, PLEASE North Augusta, keep the rif raf out of here.

GnipGnop1
2
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GnipGnop1 01/26/09 - 12:47 am
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The Lynx prospered for almost

The Lynx prospered for almost 10 years. I would say there was a market. I went to games every year. I couldn't afford season tickets but I sure wanted them. Poor management and poor play led to their downfall. I might add that they used no tax dollars either.

sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 01/26/09 - 01:36 am
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Hey jackass you should see my

Hey jackass you should see my record collection, yes records, you may be impressed. Then again, probably not. There's lots of old country thrown in with the Rachmoninoff, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Beethoven. Still, I bet my fine arts collection is bigger, better, and more comprehensive than yours. What part of "I'm all for the Miller being fully restored and will vote for the SPLOST funds should it come to that" does your little mind not comprehend?

sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 01/26/09 - 01:53 am
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The Lynx were here for over

The Lynx were here for over 10 years. If there was no support they would not have made it to year 2. The only experiment they proved is with a good team and fresh nightly entertainment the people will support them. Give the people crap like GOAL and Billy Moriss and Frank Lawrence did and the people will quit buying. The Braves sucked and the fans quit going. The Braves became winners and the fans returned. Lose on the field lose at the gate. The Braves did not fold or leave town because they were owned by millionaires who could float the team no matter what. The Thrashers are no different. Their are plenty of fans willing to pay to see them compete. There are not plenty of fans to pay to see them get killed. They will live on. That was not the case with GOAL. They could not even afford to field a competitive team in the ECHL. If they survived this season there still would have been no money to bring in better players next year. It was a downward death spiral. No money, a bad team, and a bad product is not an experiment that will prove winning results. It is the same outcome in any town. But, it's pointless arguing with someone who knows nothing about hockey or sports in general.

GnipGnop1
2
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GnipGnop1 01/26/09 - 02:19 am
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Well said sj!

Well said sj!

Little Lamb
47010
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Little Lamb 01/26/09 - 09:12 am
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Now this is a hoot! Jack

Now this is a hoot! Jack says, "I never saw an empty Augusta Symphony concert." Well, of course not. Because if Jack was at a symphony concert, it couldn't be empty because he was there!

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