The Columbia County Performing Arts Center is planned to take roughly two years to build. “Well our completion date, we’re looking for around August/September of 2020,” Deputy County Manager for Columbia County, Matt Schlachter, recently told WJBF.
There have been multiple delays since work began, primarily from above. The Augusta area saw 17.5 inches of rain from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 of 2018, the third-highest amount on record.
Months have been lost addressing issues both big and small such as rock and water where the orchestra pit is. Delays mean designers and consultants have to get involved to determine the next step which sometimes adds a month or two of work, according to a recent article in the Augusta Chronicle.
“That just comes with the complexity of this building,” SPLOST Project Manager Steven Prather was quoted as saying.
When it is done, the 70,000 square foot venue will hold an audience of 2,100.
As the steel rises, the county is working on how to operate the venue.
A Request For Proposals to run the Performing Arts Center was put out, and County Administrator Scott Johnson was surprised to receive only one back.
“We had hoped that the RFP’s we got would be a little more helpful, but we only got one, and it was so expensive. The commission looked at that proposal a couple of weeks ago, and the cost was more than we were prepared to subsidize for the project,” Johnson told the Metro Spirit.
When asked if either of the two venue management companies downtown had interest, Johnson replied, “The feedback that we got from at least one of them (SMG runs the Miller and Spectra runs the Bell and JBA) is the company saw it is a conflict of interest.”
“So at this point we’re exploring some additional options, and those options include trying to find a manager to operate the facility, help with routing, get a few things in there, sort of like Imperial does,” Johnson said.
While this may sound like a laid back approach, promoters tend to agree the building will more than likely sell itself.
“I think an advantage that we’re going to have is that this being a brand new facility, the acoustics and the lighting and all of that will be top notch. It is where performers are going to want to be.”
“Plus, at the Bell you lose seats on the side of the stage because you just can’t see, and in this facility there will not be a bad seat anywhere in the house,” Johnson said.
“Last and certainly not least is we designed this facility as a 5 truck facility, meaning that we can accommodate 5 tractor trailers. That’s been a problem that some of the smaller facilities have. The Bell is only a three truck facility, which means they can’t get all the equipment in and staged and all that that we can out here. We designed ours that way,” stated Johnson.
The Community and Leisure Services department manages the Lady A, yet Johnson said the county is not planning on placing the Performing Arts Center on their plate.
“We would have a manager basically overseeing the operation and that manager would subcontract to whomever they would need to get the work done, much like we do at the Evans Town Center Park with the lighting and sound.” Johnson explained.
“This is not going to be somebody that we currently have on staff, we’re going to heavily recruit someone from a venue that is like ours. Grab the number two person at a larger venue. That’s something that we’re hoping for.” Johnson said.
Johnson said from their research, it is an even split between venues run in house and those with a management company. “We lean towards having it run in-house,” said Johnson.
“A lot of them will have a board sort of like the Coliseum Authority at the JBA and the Bell Auditorium. So that kind of takes it out of the day-to-day hands of the government. We would be looking at that as well as putting together some sort of an oversight board,” Johnson stated.
“We’ve actually had numerous conversations with promoters that have reached out to us with interest. Nothing signed, nothing done yet, but we’re on their radar. We think that if we just try this for a year, hire a manager experienced in this type of facility, it may just all kind of work on its own so to speak.”