Visitor’s center to open this summer

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 12, 2007

The Vidalia Conference and Convention Center is scheduled to open this summer.

Vidalia Riverfront Director H.L. Irvin Jr. said Tuesday the center’s projected opening date is set for May 8.

With the outer frame of the building complete, Irvin said the installation of the interior steel studs, that hold the walls in place, is about 20 percent complete.

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Brickwork on the exterior of the building is about 30 percent complete, he said.

Irvin said the roof on the center is 95 percent complete and hopes to have it finished by the end of next week.

“(We are) starting very shortly on the electrical circuits,” Irvin said.

The building will also be equipped with wireless and hardwire Internet service within its offices and four major conference rooms.

“The mayor (Hyram Copeland) wants us to have the latest technology available for this facility,” Irvin said.

Mayor Hyram Copeland said Thursday Internet would be a “sell feature” to promote groups to come use the center.

Currently, the building covers 26,000 square feet, but Irvin said next week he hopes the city will have final approval for a $2.2 million USDA grant to expand the center another 10,000 square feet.

The reason for the extension, Irvin said, is to make the building a Red Cross-sanctioned evacuee shelter that will be fully equipped with a full service kitchen, showers and enough room to house about 300 people.

Irvin said the center will be paid for through various state and federal grants and once completed, will be worth about $8.1 million.

“Once we (the staff) occupy the building it will be fully paid for,” Irvin said.

Irvin said the center will be run by six people including a marketing director, activity director, secretary, receptionist, himself as the facility director and a building custodian.