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Augusta Convention Center's numbers better than expected

Monday, April 28, 2014 10:14 PM
Last updated Tuesday, April 29, 2014 1:04 AM
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Augusta Riverfront LLC President Paul Simon brought good news about Augusta Convention Center’s first 10 months, plus a renewed request for a pedestrian bridge to Augusta commissioners at a Monday meeting.

The convention center held 36 events in its first 10 months – far more than the dozen or so lined up when the facility opened its doors in February 2013 – and posted operating losses, after parking revenue, substantially less than projected.

“At the end of the day, we budgeted to lose $850,000, but we only lost $535,322,” said Simon, whose company shares management with Morris Communications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

Simon, who maintains the new downtown complex attached to Augusta’s Marriott isn’t a money-maker, but rather an economic engine for the city, said the 36 conventions’ 37,625 attendees spent some $10.2 million downtown for the city’s investment of just $407,797.

“These places are not designed to make money; they’re designed to bring economic benefits to the city,” he said.

General Manager Darryl Leech said contributing to the center’s success was “excellent price value” compared with similar facilities in Savannah and Athens, Ga., and the convenience of hotel rooms on-site.

By comparison, Athens provides the Classic Center some $1.4 million annually for operations, while Savannah contributes $970,000 to the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, Simon said.

Augusta’s losses were mitigated by $127,525 in revenue generated by the center’s two parking decks, he said.

With the report, Simon revived the company’s expectation to use remaining project funding to construct a pedestrian bridge between the Reynolds Street parking deck and the convention center.
While original cost estimates did not include the bridge, cost savings during construction left sufficient funds for the project, which contractor R.W. Allen has agreed to do at his previous estimate of $991,561, he said.

Also incomplete – and delaying the effective date of agreements between the city and Augusta Riverfront – were several other items, including a room block agreement with Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau and a contract giving Augusta the right of first refusal should Augusta Riverfront choose to sell an adjoining piece of property ideal for expanding the convention center, Simon said.

Commissioners spent much of 2012 negotiating with Augusta Riverfront over the contract details, including those of the new parking deck. An end result of those negotiations, which shortened the contract term and increased Augusta’s share of profits, was the commission’s consent to pay for the pedestrian bridge.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson said it was “not a good time” to ask for the bridge.

“The city has agreed to do a crosswalk,” said Simon, including 2012 meeting minutes in his presentation to the city’s Public Services committee.

Safety is the primary reason for the bridge. With Augusta experiencing three pedestrian fatalities in recent weeks, the city “doesn’t need” another, he said.
“The money’s not the issue – it’s a dangerous situation,” Simon said. “You can imagine 3,000 people trying to cross Reynolds Street.”

The committee took no action on the request. Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, impressed by the center’s 36 events, asked to refer the item to the next meeting of the public services committee after a meeting between city, Augusta Riverfront, Heery International and R.W. Allen representatives. The motion passed 3-0.

JACKSON’S WIFE DIES OF CANCER

The Augusta Commission’s Monday committee meetings had a somber tone and several agenda items were postponed in light of the Sunday death of Commissioner Joe Jackson’s wife, Mary Bea, from cancer. She was 43.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver led a moment of silence and the entire commission met with the family, including Jackson’s three children, Monday at the funeral home.

“Joe Jackson has been a dedicated commissioner to Augusta and the rest of the commission and this community suffers with Joe,” said Commissioner Donnie Smith, speaking on behalf of the commission. “Our hearts go out to him and his family. His wife was a very dedicated woman in this community and we certainly feel for Joe and his immediate family.”

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church.

– From staff reports

Comments (18) Add comment
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Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/29/14 - 04:21 am
5
6
How Much More Success Can County Stand?

“At the end of the day, we budgeted to lose $850,000, but we only lost $535,322,” said Simon.

I don't know how much more success like that the county can stand. But some of the events were nice to have in the Garden City. Family reunions, bridal show, tattoo festival and a basketball tournament actually played in the building. Did they leave the b-ball goals up?

corgimom
33198
Points
corgimom 04/29/14 - 07:17 am
5
4
Riverman, I'm with you! What

Riverman, I'm with you! What a waste of taxpayer money.

Just think what could be done with that $500,000.

A multi-million dollar facility, with huge overhead, was built to hold bridal shows, family reunions, tattoo festivals, basketball tournaments, Signal Corps balls, and Mary Kay conventions.

Yep.

Remember how Augusta HAD to have this, that Augusta was "losing all this business to surrounding centers"????

All whopping THIRTY SIX events in approximately 300 DAYS???

corgimom
33198
Points
corgimom 04/29/14 - 07:19 am
5
5
They want to EXPAND the

They want to EXPAND the center, that they can't fill now?

The inmates have totally taken over the asylum!

Marinerman1
4947
Points
Marinerman1 04/29/14 - 08:29 am
2
2
Question ???

What does the block, talking about Commissioner Joe Jackson's wife's death, have to do with this story?? I think it got placed into the wrong web-page.

Marinerman1
4947
Points
Marinerman1 04/29/14 - 08:56 am
1
1
Easing Into This ??

I'm guessing that you have to begin to build your "portfolio", but before there will be any real money made, the Center will have to attract "multi-day" events, and not just "onesies and twosies". We will see how the management evolves. The bridge is a good idea to thwart bad weather. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a connection to the Marriott direct, is there ???

corgimom
33198
Points
corgimom 04/29/14 - 09:18 am
3
3
Why would any major

Why would any major convention come to Augusta GA, when Columbia, Atlanta, and Savannah are close by and much easier to get to?

dichotomy
33550
Points
dichotomy 04/29/14 - 09:48 am
4
2
I'm surprised the

I'm surprised the commissioners didn't take the money we DIDN'T LOSE to HIRE A CONSULTANT to STUDY why we LOST MONEY.

My guess is that got 36 events because the place is new and that it only goes downhill from here and the losses grow as we start paying the obligated maintenance.

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 04/29/14 - 10:45 am
3
2
Fudging the Numbers
Unpublished

Oh it wouldn't be like the parent company of The Chronicle to fudge the numbers would it? But what really matters is how many of these events were the big multi-day events that would not have come to Augusta had it not been for the TEE Center. How many actually used the TEE Center or the existing conference center? When you think about it, a total of 36 events is pretty measly for a facility of this size. The whole reason we were told we must build this facility is to attract large conventions that were bypassing Augusta. I'd like to know how many of these events fit into that category.

countyman
20244
Points
countyman 04/29/14 - 11:11 am
2
4
Five important facts!!!

1. The TEE Center is responsible for the first new hotel to open downtown in decades..
2. The plan is to build the skywalk and not expand the center anytime soon....
3. The Georgia Society of Association Executives, Georgia EMS, Mary Kay, Georgia Sheriffs Association, Georgia Housing Authority, Georgia Chiefs of Police, etc had multi-day conferences..
4. The ESI WebEOC and ESI Ironman held in 2013 were both major conventions...
5. The American Holistic Veterinary Medicine Association conference is another major event happening in 2015..

Marinerman1
4947
Points
Marinerman1 04/29/14 - 11:37 am
1
1
Multi-Day

I don't remember how many of the above mentioned conferences were what I would call multi-day. @ a minimum, it needs to be three, but I'm wanting to see how many four or five day conferences we can book. I'm coming from the World Congress Center days, living in Atlanta. As the economy continues to improve, we shall see how this works. I'm hopeful.

TrulyWorried
14536
Points
TrulyWorried 04/29/14 - 12:50 pm
3
2
Convention Center

Countyman - please give us a break - there are 365 days in a year, 366 if it is a leap year, whenever that happens again.
And now they are talking about that famous "bridge" walk-way across to the parking center again?
The TEE is on the corner - there is a traffic light right there too - a nicely striped pedestrian crossway can be painted there, plus a button folks can push if they want to cross - comes millions cheaper than an overhead walkway.
Face it - Augusta is not that famous (except one week out of the year) that it would warrant all these extra accommodations. People won't melt if they get a few drops of rain on them (let us be thankful for it) and even if you hand out cheap umbrellas for those unfortunate ones that don't have one - it'll still save millions!!! Channel 6 hands one out every day!

Butterman
3680
Points
Butterman 04/29/14 - 01:01 pm
4
1
The washing machine
Unpublished

Need a load washed? The cycle is just about to start.

dichotomy
33550
Points
dichotomy 04/29/14 - 01:08 pm
4
1
I think we just skipped the

I think we just skipped the wash and went straight to the spin cycle.

soitgoes
820
Points
soitgoes 04/29/14 - 01:15 pm
1
2
Not a bad start

36 events might not sound like much, but imagine how many MORE events would be held if our local government weren't perceived as the DYSFUNCTIONAL race-driven body it is. But so it goes...

p.s. Vote NO to SPLOST.

corgimom
33198
Points
corgimom 04/29/14 - 01:34 pm
3
1
Countyman, 37,000 people

Countyman, 37,000 people attended 36 events.

There aren't any large conventions that have booked the TEE Center, and there won't be.

corgimom
33198
Points
corgimom 04/29/14 - 01:37 pm
2
1
Charlotte expects in 2014 to

Charlotte expects in 2014 to book 36 events with a total attendance of 139,000.

Do you see the difference, Countyman, and that what you consider "large" is what the convention industry regards as very small?

Consider the NRA convention- 70,000 members.

Consider the Shriner convention held in Charlotte last year- 60,000 members.

THAT'S large.

nocnoc
43454
Points
nocnoc 04/29/14 - 02:35 pm
4
0
They only lost $535,322.

And they are happy they only lost $1/2 million of Taxpayer $$$$$$?

At this rate of loss they could have funded the Storm Drain project and avoided a Rain Tax.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 04/29/14 - 03:38 pm
1
0
Was Dr. Sanders Right Or What?

Trust me if there were an idea that would help grow our chief city for the region, I'd be the first to promote it. The TEE Center isn't it. It wasted tens of millions for basically local and state events that have come here previously using existing facilities. The TEE was promoted as a way to bring hundreds of millions in dollars into the community. That's not an exaggeration of what was said. Everyone involved knew it was all lies.

Dr. Heywood Sanders, the authority on these type buildings, told us as much. He also explained why they are often approved. "Well connected local people who stand to profit from the building." Was he right or what?

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 04/29/14 - 04:23 pm
1
0
Skywalk

The commissioners need to vote NO on this.

Gage Creed
17393
Points
Gage Creed 04/29/14 - 07:40 pm
0
0
SPIN!

We've moved from spin cycle to commercial laundry hi-speed extractor....

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