Partial interiors of the Bell Auditorium renovation revealed

The Bell Auditorium’s new interiors could also mean new life for the nearly 3,000-seat theater as officials take steps to make it a more modern version of itself.

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority recently reviewed preliminary designs for the interior of the auditorium as part of its expansion and renovation project.

Miranda Dooley, interior project designer for Perkins & Will, explained on Tuesday that their design story is “Behind the Curtain”, which informs several elements of the aesthetic, including interior and exterior walls which are constructed in a manner to look like stage curtains. The rendering of the new lobby depicted such walls.

Read more:Upcoming Renovations for Augusta’s Bell Auditorium with Artists and VIPs in Mind

‘Just a little setback’:Arena supporters will look for a new source of funding after the defeat at the polls

Artist's impression of the Bell Auditorium renovation and expansion project.

“Our goal was not to turn the Bell into a museum of modern art,” said Perkins & Will project architect Mike Harvey. “We wanted him to look like a modern version of himself in the 40s and 50s.”

As part of this old-school vibe, the Bell is getting a new speakeasy, the premium club is getting a corresponding refurbishment, and the new bathrooms, changing rooms and green room will have similar designs that are simple and nostalgic, yet modern and refined.

A new elevator system is also added.

The lobby was the only new rendering provided, while the other rooms were featured with images that are used as inspiration. However, that was enough to impress those in authority, like Darren Smith, who praised the team for these “outstanding” designs that maintain Bell’s character and identity. His comments were supported by Vice President Brad Usry and Deputy Secretary Bonita Jenkins.

Artist's impression of the Bell Auditorium renovation and expansion project.

Harvey said they plan to return to The Authority with more renders in November. Project director HB Brantley said an estimated cost has yet to be determined, but they plan to start between mid to late April 2023 with an estimated completion date of 2024.

The improvement and expansion of the Bell was initially part of the larger plan to completely replace the James Brown Arena and connect the new arena to the renovated Bell. However, when the larger and much more expensive project stalled earlier in May, Brantley and the Colosseum Authority agreed that it would be proactive to at least move forward with the bell repair.

Colosseum authority seeks another tax to fund James Brown Arena

During Tuesday’s meeting, authority attorney J. Edward Enoch announced that they were seeking another referendum that would give them tax funds for the new James Brown Arena project.

Artist's impression of the new James Brown arena project.

Enoch explained that they hoped to introduce legislation in the state legislature in January that would create a special sales tax in Augusta for the project.

“At the moment we don’t have another vehicle to fund the arena,” he said.

If approved, the authority will still have to submit it to a public vote. When the authority attempted a similar vote earlier this year, it was considering raising the funds through property taxes, raising them so that homeowners would see taxes rise by $97.60 for every $100,000 of assessed value. More than 60% of voters rejected the bill, although less than 10% of registered voters voted.

Enoch said this venture is still in its infancy and could not provide any figures on the scale of the tax they are pursuing this time.

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