AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF)- Thursday morning, the Coliseum Authority will host a groundbreaking ceremony at the Bell Auditorium. It’s the start of the $17.5 million renovation and expansion project for the venue.

This 83-year-old venue hasn’t seen a major renovation in 35 years, which the Authority said makes this project absolutely necessary.

The Coliseum Authority hopes this is the first phase in a plan to connect the Bell Auditorium to the James Brown Arena. The JBA was supposed to be the first part of the project, but was postponed after voters voted against the funding plan in 2021.

Renovations to the Bell include new restrooms, more concessions, and a new grand lobby. The BMW Club will also be expanded.

Brad Usry, Chairman of the JBA Project Subcommittee, said it’s been a long time coming.

“It’s just exciting for the Authority. We truly have worked hard on this. And people don’t realize, but we’ve been doing this for pushing 13 years, once we identified that we needed a new arena. But what’s great about this, is we are renovating the Bell, because it is the work horse of the complex.”

The Bell will be closed during construction, but Coliseum Authority leaders said the James Brown Arena will accommodate the events usually held there.

“And what this community needs to know is, the Bell is the busiest building in the state of Georgia outside of the Atlanta Metro area. So it is quite the building. It’s aged, but it aged well,” explained Usry.

The groundbreaking ceremony will take place at 10:00 Thursday morning at the green space near the Bell Auditorium.

Construction on the project has already begun. The Bell Auditorium is expected to be closed from this July until May 2024.