March 20, 2013 10:29:02 AM
Trotter Convention Center's long-awaited renovations will soon be underway, with $2 million in improvements planned for the aging facility.
It was built in 1941 on the site of an old textile mill and used as both a National Guard Armory and the city auditorium before being completely renovated and reopened as a convention center in April 1987.
Director Frank Goodman has overseen the building's operations since that time, and Monday he said he's looking forward to the lengthy list of proposed updates, which range from exterior and interior painting to re-tiling the bathrooms, replacing wallpaper and ceiling tiles, refinishing the parquet floors and purchasing new furniture for the main entrance lobby.
Technology upgrades include wireless Internet access, new stage lights, a new sound system and video equipment in the ballroom stage area and in the break-out rooms.
Visitors will also appreciate new, outside bathrooms in the fenced courtyard, a new elevator at the Second Avenue North entrance and increased parking behind the Gilmer Inn, Goodman said.
The hardest part of the renovation will be finding a way to schedule the work around the bookings. The convention center tends to be rented every weekend, Goodman said, with only a few days each week that it is empty.
In 2010 -- the most recent figures available -- approximately 90,000 people attended 165 functions held at the Trotter. The convention center's operating budget is $307,000 this year, and it grosses an average of $125,000 per year in business, Goodman said, adding that between its earnings and the two-percent hotel tax, the facility is self-sufficient.
The upgrades will be funded by an in-lieu agreement between the city and Columbus Light and Water.
Goodman is looking forward to seeing his home away from home get a facelift and believes once the work is complete, the Trotter will be an even greater asset to the city.
"When I first started, I was working night and day," he said of his early years. "I spend a lot of time here. I've got good memories, seen a lot go on. It's been an exciting time. It still looks good, I tell you, for being 26 years old."
Work should begin soon and is expected to be complete in 2015. The renovation committee will meet with architects Wednesday to hear proposals.
Monday, after receiving a list of the proposed changes, Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board President Dewitt Hicks responded enthusiastically, saying he felt the project was "a well thought-out process."
"I think it's something we've all asked for and we need, and I'm thrilled they're doing it," CVB Executive Director Nancy Carpenter said. "I think the improvements that they're making are going to help us tremendously."
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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