New Buford community center impresses locals

Staff Photo: John Bohn The brand-new Buford Community Center is nearing an official opening. The multi-function facility will host weddings, business events as well as entertainment events in the Community Center theater.

Staff Photo: John Bohn The brand-new Buford Community Center is nearing an official opening. The multi-function facility will host weddings, business events as well as entertainment events in the Community Center theater.


Staff Photo: John Bohn The brand-new Buford Community Center is nearing an official opening. The multi-function facility will host weddings, business events as well as entertainment events in the Community Center theatre.


Staff Photo: John Bohn Todd Cleveland, director of the new Buford Community Center, gives a tour of the soon to open facility that will host weddings, business events as well as entertainment events.


Staff Photo: John Bohn A large staircase is part of the lobby of the new Buford Community Center. The multi-function facility will host weddings, business events as well as entertainment events.

BUFORD -- Decorators entered the building before the reception commenced. The aroma of fresh paint and the chemical scent of new carpet escaped for a brief moment as the doors opened and shut.

In the ballroom, staff spread out immaculate, white tablecloths and folded black napkins. Florists placed arrangements of yellow and white flowers at each table. Hurricane globes and mirrored trays glowed, reflecting candle light.

In a matter of hours, more than 300 guests would file into the new community center and theatre to celebrate the union of Guntersville, Ala., native Kevin Larson and Lauren Bradford, the daughter of a family with Buford roots seven generations deep.

The wedding reception served as an historic occasion on July 21, not just for the Bradfords, but for the town's citizenry. It was the first-ever event inside the Buford Community Center and Theatre, a sprawling $15 million structure near the city's historic downtown area that's been many years in the making.

Carla Bradford was impressed.

"The beauty and grandeur will overwhelm you," said Bradford, the mother of the bride. A Buford resident since birth, she is a descendent of the Beard Family, whose involvement in the area predates the town's 1873 founding.

Bradford said the new community center is something that would have wowed founding Buford residents.

"We're all so proud of this community center," Bradford said. "When I was growing up, none of us would ever have imagined that we'd have anything like this. It's a blessing."

Bradford's cousin and the city's commission chairman, Phillip Beard, said residents deserve nothing less.

"Buford is doing well, and we're going to give our citizens the best we can," Beard said. "This community center is an example. The commissioners voted to build a quality facility that they can be proud of and use for many, many years to come."

The building, which features a theater, ballroom, meeting rooms and museum, is surrounded by green space as well as an amphitheater and town park interactive fountain.

The Sylvia Beard Theatre includes 290 seats and eight private VIP boxes, four dressing rooms for performers and cast, full box office and ticketing capabilities as well as concessions stands. City staff is working with the Gainesville Theatre Alliance to create a resident troupe for performances.

The Phillip Beard Ballroom features a 4,400 square foot banquet seating area with a reception capacity of 400. The room has access to outdoor seating on the veranda, which overlooks the town park and Buford Village.

During the Bradford-Larson wedding, the veranda was used as a cocktail area while dinner arrived at tables in the ballroom. Catering staff unveiled platters of lemon rosemary chicken and Italian pot roast with grilled vegetables and eggplant Parmesan.

After that, wedding guests stepped out onto the dance floor as a mirrored ball descended from the ceiling that reminded Bradford of "the disco era."

"Everything was absolutely gorgeous," Bradford said. "The ballroom actually is so nice that even if you didn't have any table arrangements or decorations, it would still be beautiful."

With endorsements like that, city of Buford officials said they've had little trouble generating interest in renting out rooms inside the building.

"We've actually booked more than 50 events already, and we just opened last week," said Todd Cleveland, community center director.

Cleveland said one of the perks of his job is taking people on tours through the new structure and "seeing the reactions of first-time visitors as they walk in the door." The beauty of the lobby area, he said, "really takes them by surprise. It's a magnificent, open space."

Added Cleveland: "Mr. Beard has had the vision for a grand building like this in the community for quite some time."

Paid for through the city's general fund and a government general obligation bond passed in 2009, construction began two years ago. Beard said the city had been in dire need of a new community center.

"We had a civic center, but it was just outdated," Beard said. "The upkeep was getting to where it was costing too much to repair. Eventually, we got to a point where we were financially able to build a better place."

City Commissioner Chris Burge said the old civic center "was just a small, outdated building with leaks in the roof."

The new building, Burge said, started as "a smaller idea, but it's grown into something we're proud of."

Added Burge: "We hope everybody in Buford will be proud of it too and puts it to good use."

Buford resident Wanda Thompson, for one, plans to visit the first chance she gets.

"I've only seen it from the outside, but from what I've seen on the website, it looks really impressive," Thompson said. "Looks like it would be a good place to have like a meeting or a wedding reception...it would probably be perfect for that."

The Bradfords thought so.

Guests at the July 21 reception passed around plates of cherry amaretto wedding cake, while others ventured over to congratulate the new bride and groom.

"It was the perfect location for the reception," Bradford said. "We feel so blessed that we live in Buford, and we're so close to this facility. I think Buford had a huge need for a venue like this, and it's something all of the citizens will be able to really enjoy."


notblind 2 years, 11 months ago

Cha ching cha ching cha ching . Goobermint run amok is what I see. This was conceived during the housing bubble and finished in a recession where tax revenues are falling constantly. What's the daily tab for utilities, building maintenance and grounds care ?


R 2 years, 11 months ago

When your city is in the "Natural Gas distribution business" outside the city limits there's always a cash flow...


BurritoJones 2 years, 11 months ago

You're right. It would have been much better to kill the project, write off the money already spent on it and fire all the local workers that were building it.


BufordGuy 2 years, 11 months ago

This, just like Gwinnett Braves stadium, is a monument to what is wrong with government today.


BuzzG 2 years, 11 months ago

Not one word in the article how Buford will come up with the $15 million needed. Politicians hope no one will ask and the Daily Post certainly won't.


teelee 2 years, 11 months ago

It is the palace mentality that most Gwinnett cities have right now.


champaignlady 2 years, 11 months ago

The Sylvia Beard Theatre and the Phillip Beard Ballroom? Really!!?? Sounds like the building is a monument to the Beard family.


rascal66 2 years, 11 months ago

Community center? It looks like a mansion. A real community center would have a library, computer room, place for the seniors to gather, area where kids go play and socialize, do creative artwork. This is where people gather to have tea and crumpets!


FordGalaxy 2 years, 11 months ago

In fairness to this argument, There is a library less than a mile away from the center. There are several parks within a drive of just a few minutes from the center. Note that I'm not defending the center; I was never in support of it. But if they had built a center that does all the things you called for, rascal66, then we'd be hearing people complain about a redundant building that was trying to overtake the parks and libraries nearby. Such is the nature of debate in our society.


Sonoma 2 years, 11 months ago

I agree with Rascal myself. IS this a community center where my children can play basketball or other sports activities after school? Can my mother come her and play bingo or poker with her friends? Is this facility actually designed for the average residents of Buford? I'd be more impressed if the article actually listed what services the community center will provide.


Dickens 2 years, 11 months ago

With the number of foreclosures in this county I see every Thurs in The Gwinnett Daily Post, the food banks running low on food, pet shelters overwhelmed, this is how Buford decides to spend $15 million dollars.. I hope 20/20, Nightline or some other show puts the spotlight on Buford and the incredibly wasteful building they have built.


notblind 2 years, 11 months ago

And there ain't no way to get rid of it. The Buford taxpayers are stuck with the utilities and upkeep from now till doomsday. Same for the Sugar Hill monument to bureaucratic "keeping up with the Joneses".


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