Cyber Center: Officials give sneak peek at massive auditorium
By Damon Cline – The Augusta Chronicle
The countdown to the July 10 grand opening of the first phase of the Hull McKnight Georgia Cyber Center for Innovation and Training is ticking.
Calvin Rhodes knows it down to the millisecond. On Tuesday, the executive director of the Georgia Technology Authority – the developer of the $100 million multi-tenant education building – handed out promotional countdown clocks to local officials and news media during a special sneak preview of the center’s massive 330-seat auditorium.
In addition to a unique concrete-on-foam construction that provides superior acoustics, the highly anticipated innovation center’s most spacious room will boast the latest in wireless technology and remote-learning tools.
“The technology in here allows us to have the statewide presence to work with a variety of groups across the state,” Rhodes said. “To have a resource like this that they can physically come to – but also virtually participate with – is truly important to us.”
The 17-acre site between Reynolds Street and the Savannah River is billed as the largest single cybersecurity investment in a facility by a state government. Private companies leasing space at the innovation center would generate revenue to upgrade the auditorium’s equipment every five years, which Rhodes said is the standard “refresh rate.”
Agencies such as the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Army Cyber Command will occupy space at the riverfront campus, but the vast majority of the 332,000 square feet will be devoted to educating the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. Augusta University will operate the buildings as well as house its School of Computer & Cyber Sciences there, but Augusta Technical College also will move its associate degree-level program to the building’s second and third floors, which Rhodes said provides an opportunity to “bring the nontraditional student into the environment.”
“When you look at the fact that you have the university paired up with the technical college system, that’s not a normal partnership that we see across the state, but this facility helps bring those entities together,” he said.
The second phase building broke ground in January. The structure is an architectural carbon copy of the phase one building, enabling New South Construction and JLL, the general contractor and project manager, respectively, to learn efficiencies along the way.
“It’s actually going up much faster than building one,” JLL Vice President Russel Rankenburg said during the auditorium preview.
The project includes a city-financed parking deck and a state-funded extension of the Augusta riverwalk to 13th Street.