Business Lifestyles

Behind the curtain of the Bell Auditorium renovations

Keeping the Bell Auditorium’s historic façade during the renovation was part of the original plan, but work crews uncovered another piece of the facility’s original design that may also remain.

“The original flooring was covered for years,” said Brad Usry with the Augusta Richmond County Coliseum Authority during a hard hat tour of the building Oct. 3. But McKnight Construction Co. discovered it and is working toward restoring it.

Carpeting hid the original terrazzo floors, and there are hopes they can be restored.

 “How cool is that?” Usry said.

Joe Kinsey with McKnight Construction Co. stands in the original Bell Auditorium lobby. Work crews uncovered terrazzo floors during renovations. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

The facility is being renovated to add much needed bathrooms, a new entrance and more than 5,000 square feet of space that will connect the Bell with a new James Brown Arena. A vote for the new arena is set for Nov. 7.

Men’s and women’s bathrooms will be on both sides of the facility and will increase by 75%  once it’s completed, according to Joe Kinsey with McKnight Construction.

When designing the addition, architects played on the theme of “behind the curtain” tying the look of the building into its function. On the exterior, bricks will be used to create the effect of a curtain while red velvet curtains will be hung on the inside, Kinsey said.

Terracotta blocks were used in the original construction of the Bell Auditorium. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

The new section will also have terrazzo flooring.

Another discovery during the construction process were the terracotta blocks used in the original construction.

There will be a large VIP club with TVs and a window looking into the auditorium floor so people won’t miss anything while going into the lounge to get a drink. A speakeasy lounge will also be constructed.

The exterior of the Bell Auditorium. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Another addition is an elevator in the dressing room area. The Bell Auditorium has three floors of dressing rooms; however, they are only accessible by stairs. Some artists have complained about the lack of an elevator.

Even though renovations are still months from completion, artists have already reached out to inquire about booking because they’ve heard about the renovations, Usry said.

Joe Kinsey stands in the new lobby area that will serve as a connector to the James Brown Arena. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Brian Martin, general manager of the Augusta Entertainment Complex which includes the Bell Auditorium and the James Brown Arena, said he anticipates the Bell reopening in June 2024.        

Tyler Gambrell, regional marketing director for the Augusta Entertainment Complex, said announcements for upcoming shows at the renovated Bell could come in the next two weeks.       

Events such as the Broadway at the Bell series have the potential to return with single dates in the 2024-2025 season. A full slate of shows might not show up until the 2025-2026 season, he said.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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