'Full speed ahead' as mayor cites Augusta Convention Center 'competitive advantage'

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News 12 First at Five / Friday, Nov. 9, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The management deal is done. City leaders are now touring the new Augusta Convention Center and you have an invite.

Workers are putting the finishing touches on Augusta's new convention center.

"At times," said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, "I thought this day would never come."

Commissioners finally hammered out a painful management deal.

"I mean, we are giving away everything but the kitchen sink," exclaimed Commissioner Bill Lockett. "I better check. It may be gone, too."

Copenhaver took a tour of the convention center, including the kitchen, one day after the deal was sealed.

Commissioners were able to negotiate to receive a percentage of revenue from catering.

The new terms say the deal is 15 years long, but now there is an option to terminate after five years.

"Now we can hire, train and learn all the systems," said Convention Center Operator Darryl Leech. "Full speed ahead."

The battle now turns to what to call the place.

"Well the name on the building out there says the Augusta Convention Center," Leech said. "What are you calling it?"

It depends on who you talk to.

"It is a trade, exhibit and events center," said Peggy Seigler with the visitors bureau. "It's a fantastic facility. If the city turns around and wants to call it something else, we will do what we are told."

Seigler has been marketing the new center as the TEE Center.

"We don't know why," Leech said. "Because to us that doesn't make sense. It also doesn't make sense that the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau won't use Augusta Convention Center."

The mayor suggests it doesn't matter what you call it in the end. He says the center is uniquely suited to attract large groups.

"Nobody has got space like this connected to a hotel other than Atlanta," Copenhaver said. "So we are at a competitive advantage."

The first paying group is set for February.

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