COVINGTON, Ga. - Three Ring Studios, the future home of film, music and gaming development in Covington, is well on its way to becoming a reality, David Bernd, vice president of Covington/Newton County Economic Development said.
Bernd said work has started at the Three Ring, located on Highway 142 across from the Orchard Park Subdivision, with the removal of trees and other landscaping. However, since then, the work is at a standstill.
The Newton County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) had previously approved the bonds for Three Ring, but discussions of a possible conflict of interest came up, and the authority decided to completely redo the process of approving the bonds.
“We want to make sure we are straight, there are no issues at all, no conflicts of interest going forward because we’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars as we go forward,” Bernd said.
The redo procedure goes before the judge Monday and the project is expected to be back on track after the judge’s approval.
“The general contractor is mobilized to go,” he said. “We’re set to get the infrastructure in the ground.”
Bernd said the goal was to have soundstages up and operating in the fourth quarter of this year, but the delays have pushed that back. He expects the first soundstages to be operational in the first quarter of next year.
“I understand why some people in the community think these projects are not coming, because it is a little bit mind-boggling, even for us and we eat and drink it every day,” he said.
Million-square-feet of opportunity
Bernd said Three Ring Studios, when completed, will have roughly one-million-square-feet of soundstage, along with a back lot and office space.
Bernd said the project will be built in phases, starting with the South Campus, which is where the soundstages will go. There are plans for 18 to 22 soundstages included in the project, he said.
The central campus phase will be next, which is where the back lot will go. Bernd said currently the group is working to make sure the noise from the Covington Municipal Airport, located near Three Ring’s site, does not interfere with filming on the back lot.
Job fair expected this summer
Bernd said a job fair for the studio will most likely happen towards the end of this summer. The job fair was previously announced for February of this year, but the delays in the project prevented that.
Bernd said Three Ring’s first priority is to find local workers.
“In fact, a job … they’ve actually made a commitment that the first cut for people to come to the job fair will be Rockdale, Newton, Jasper, Morgan and Walton Counties would be the only ones allowed in for the first cut of the job fair and then it would be opened up after that,” he said.
He said there will be thousands of job openings in various fields.
“Right now between Newton and Walton County we have 800 jobs right now that we cannot fill. In fact, we’re going the wrong way,” Bernd said. “Eighteen months from now, we estimate that is going to be at 7,000. What’s the population of Covington? Thirteen thousand, so that’s half the population of Covington.”
“Five years from now we’re going to look a whole lot different than we do today,” he said.
The Covington News will provide updates once the job fair has been officially scheduled.