Sun, June 23, 2024

First step complete for new Augusta entertainment complex

The public got its first look inside the newly renovated and expanded Bell Auditorium during a Tuesday ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The facility closed about a year ago for the more than $17 million project, designed to enhance the current venue as the first phase of a three-phase development.

“For more than 80 years, this venue here has hosted a lot of fun events,” Mayor Garnett Johnson told the crowd. “Here we are, bigger and better, to host more events for generations to come.”

The Bell is more than 80 years old. Its last facelift was in 1990. The new improvements, like the last project, leave the familiar front of the historic building unchanged. Modifications and expansions were added to the sides, back, and inside.

“We’re excited that we were able to keep the Bell’s original character, while modernizing for optimal use,” said Brad Usry, Chairman of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority’s New JBA subcommittee. “We’re excited because the Bell is bigger and better than ever. You’ve got a new Speakeasy, you’ve got a larger VIP space, a new green room, new dressing rooms, and you’ve got that awesome Grand Lobby.”

Usry said one major improvement was the addition of bathrooms, more bathrooms, and even more bathrooms, which brought applause and laughter from the audience.

It was standing room only inside the new grand lobby for the ribbon cutting and open house. The 5,500-square-foot addition is on the Seventh Street side of the building.

“Space that we can use for wedding receptions, private events, things like that, and may not need a large facility like the Bell Auditorium, you know, 2,700 seats, but something that’s closer to 400 or 500 people,” Chris Martin, General Manager of the Augusta Entertainment Complex, explained for ABD. “It’s a great reception piece. It’s got its own built-in lighting system that can be custom controlled, audio system as well.”

The grand lobby also forms the beginning of a concourse that will connect the Bell to the new James Brown Arena. Those are the next two phases of the development.

The Taylor BMW VIP Club was enlarged and can now hold 200 members. The renovations also created a second, more intimate space. The Speakeasy will have just 20 members. Both clubs have glass doors that open to the main auditorium.

“People will be able to be in the club and feel like they’re still part of what’s going on inside the auditorium, so they’re not secluded,” Katie Berube, Director of Partnerships, told ABD. “And obviously, the lounge space to be able to socialize and interact with everyone, the other members.”

Berube said they are seeking a sponsor with naming rights for the Speakeasy.

Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson closed the ceremony saying the Bell is a source of pride.

“The Coliseum Authority thought it was important to make sure that we bring people together to show that we work together to make things happen like this. And I’m so very proud of what we’ve been able to do,” he said. “I want to thank those who are in attendance today. It means a lot to us for y’all to be here and we look forward to opening the venue up to the shows and having people come in.”

The first show is this Friday with a performance by singer, Ben Folds.

Editor’s note: This is the first part of the landmark project to renovate the historic Bell Auditorium. Tomorrow, Dana Lynn McIntyre previews the closing of the JBA in preparation for demolition.

Subscribe to our eNewsletter for the BEST local business news delivered to your Inbox each week day.

* indicates required

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Posts