AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority approved $884,000 to go toward design plans for the Bell Auditorium.

Perkins & Will architecture firm presented its discovery findings, which shows the auditorium will need major renovations. The discovery is not the design, it shows the current state of the auditorium.

Brad Usry, chairman of JBA Project Subcommittee

“Now the real detail design can start going. What I thought came out of this report more than anything, was we used two local companies to get to this discovery that otherwise probably we would’ve went to Atlanta firm possibly, but we’re really pushing for local companies to get work in this project,” said Brad Usry, chairman of the James Brown Arena project subcommittee.

The Bell will be renovated, not demolished and rebuilt like the current plan for the James Brown Arena.

A representative from Perkins & Will says a key idea is to connect the two buildings.

“Our proposed scope was to our the new connector piece which was the concourse, the long strip in blue at the bottom, which is the east side of the Bell,” he said.

Among many ideas, they plan to renovate the club, dressing rooms, green rooms, and add more restrooms.

The Coliseum Authority says while the Bell Auditorium is under construction, the James Brown Arena will remain open for business.

“That was one of the challenges we had when we were talking about the projects being done together is we really wanted to keep the Bell open. We were going to try to just close it for 90 days. With this process going on before the full renovation, we’re hoping it won’t close. We are hoping it will never go dark during the whole process,” Usry said.

Usry says there were six shows at the arena in the past 30 days, including Beyond Van Gogh Augusta, which was the highest grossing event in the history of the James Brown Area.

“This arena is amazing. It’s the number one arena outside Atlanta in the state of Georgia,” Usry said.

A construction manager is expected to be on board by August 1st.

“We should have some real, raw numbers by October 1st. That’s when we’ll know at that point in time. If it’s a go, if we can afford it, we’ll be rockin’ and rollin’,” Usry said.