Construction continues on convention center

Published 12:27 am Thursday, June 5, 2008

VIDALIA — The initial phase of the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center was completed by mid-summer last year, but the center is closed, power shut off and work crews are already tearing down one of the walls.

The wall de-construction is not an act of demolition, though — it’s so workers can tie in electricity and connect the heretofore under-construction phase II wing of the building.

The convention center should re-open after June 6, when electrical work is expected to be completed, and town officials are currently looking at lighting and sound systems for the addition, Vidalia Director of Marketing Glen McGlothin said.

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The city expects the second phase of construction to be completed by mid-July, McGlothin said.

The convention center’s staff was able to move into the office space expansion, which was part of the second phase, approximately three weeks ago.

The space the staff was using for offices will now be converted into the Jim Bowie museum and convention center gift shop.

“The museum is going to be a really good-looking addition,” McGlothin said.

Work on the addition was slowed somewhat by the recent high water that reached above the Mississippi River’s banks and touched the convention center.

“It was slowed down on the back side, the side that faces the river, because there was no way to put those heavy loaders back there to work on the facing,” McGlothin said. “It didn’t slow it down majorly, but it did enough to stop the back side from being completed.”

Now that the water has receded, work has resumed and the construction crews are ready to start pouring forms for the sidewalk that had to be torn up for the continued construction, McGlothin said.

The new addition will be used as convention space, but it will also be used as a Red Cross evacuation center to house evacuees in the event of a disaster.

The addition will have a full-size commercial kitchen — the facility currently has a small catering kitchen — and enough showering and toilet facilities to accommodate evacuees.

The second-phase construction will cost $8.2 million, and is being paid for with state and federal grants.

The first phase was opened in August 2007, and was built at a cost of $5.2 million.