News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- After years of planning, voting and arguing, the Augusta TEE Center is now open. This is the first full week of events planned for the Augusta Convention Center.
Now that it's open for business, city leaders are just trying to make sure it's packed with events.
"This is good growth, and it's something we can take advantage of," said Augusta resident Willie Frasier.
He had his first look inside Augusta's new Convention center and says he's impressed.
"This makes you want to bring another convention back to the Augusta area," Frasier said.
It took years to get to this point -- from planning, to who owned the property where it was built and finding the millions of dollars to finish the project.
"I believe we have moved passed all the controversy. We need to remember that this wouldn't have come without commission approval," said Mayor Deke Copenhaver.
"In my mind, it's already a success. This is something that Augusta needs. We are the second largest city in Georgia. We need to have a facility that can house large conventions," said Commissioner Mary Davis.
Five events like this business expo are planned this week with an impact expected to be around $25,000. The only problem is the TEE Center is budgeted to lose $800,000 in its first year.
"If we do see a loss this year, I look forward to it being less every year. I hope we can turn a profit and that's what our goal is," Davis said.
The mayor says they'll make their money back one big event at a time.
"When you consider events like the ESI Iron Man Augusta, it has an economic impact of $4 million ," Copenhaver said.
Augusta Marriott officials say the convention center has 20 confirmed bookings for the year with an economic impact of more than $11 million.
It's one more big reason to visit Augusta.
"It's no excuse for people to not come to an area like this, at least to utilize the facility," Frasier said.