SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) -- After six years of planning and 18 months of construction, Jekyll Island's new convention center is opening to the public that paid for it.
Gov. Nathan Deal celebrated the milestone with Jekyll Island officials Sunday afternoon. The 128,000-square-foot convention facility is the centerpiece of $50 million in recent improvements to the island state park funded by Georgia taxpayers.
The Jekyll Island Authority says it's already lined up more than 200 convention groups through 2016, worth about $40 million in total business. Still, authority director Jones Hooks expects budgets will remain tight until two privately-built convention hotels open by 2014.
Hooks says the state investment was needed to turn around years of declining tourism and lost conventions. The island's old convention center was built in 1961.