Columbia County’s new exhibition hall doesn’t have a name yet, but county officials say it will be ready to open in May.
The $7.3 million, 47,000-square-foot building is under construction by Augusta-based McKnight Construction Co. in the Gateway Shopping Center near Grovetown.
The Family Y will be the first occupants of the facility, leasing a portion of the building for a new fitness center under a five-year, $1.3 million lease.
“I couldn’t be more excited about it,” said Danny McConnell, the president and CEO of The Family Y. “It’s going to be a nice facility once it’s opened.”
The rest of the building will have more-transient tenants as the county markets the 15,000-square-foot trade show floor and adjoining conference rooms to event planners, said Sandy Boner, the manager of Columbia County’s Rentals and Facilities Department.
Not including the 10,000 square feet of adjoining meeting rooms, that 15,000-square-foot trade-show space is more than twice as large as the county’s current largest room at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, Boner said.
An adjoining concrete pad outside the main trade show space allows exterior exhibits for such events as boat or garden shows, she said.
Workers are finishing brickwork on the exterior of the building, while drywall crews finish sheetrock interior walls as they’re built. Even before it’s finished, Boner said, there’s plenty of interest in the facility.
“We started talking to people about this almost three years ago,” Boner said. “Not only did we have several groups that had really outgrown Savannah Rapids, but we’ve got others who’ve contacted us.”
Most of those plans are on hold while the county finalizes details, she said. Once that’s done, the fee schedules and list of available amenities will be ready to present to customers.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said County Commission Chairman Ron Cross. “It’s going to give us a venue larger than Savannah Rapids to hold events.”
Rather than simply shift those events to another facility, the conference center then will open up dates at Savannah Rapids, he added. “It’ll help overall.”
Located down the hill from Walmart, the building has tall windows along the front. The Family Y entrance is on one end, while the county portion has multiple entrances with the main entry on the other end.
That entry opens to a lobby, and then to large, carpeted “pre-reception” area. The main exhibition hall will have a finished concrete floor, Boner said.
The exhibition hall can be divided into two rooms with separate entries from the pre-reception area. The three meeting rooms also are accessed from the pre-reception area, and its moveable walls will allow it to open into one room large enough to seat about 150 people, Boner said.
The initial opening of the Y will help draw people to the facility, and from there help boost business for the exhibition hall, Cross said.
For the Y, opening also will give the organization an opportunity to reach out to the Grovetown area.
“There’s been a lot of interest, but we really haven’t had a facility in Grovetown,” McConnell said. “I couldn’t feel better about it at this point. I think it’ll do very well for us once it opens.”