Absolutely no horse sense

Arena managers let a popular money-maker gallop out of Augusta



What a tragedy. Augusta has lost a major attraction and economic generator - the National Barrel Horse Association's Open and Senior World Championships.

This event, over its 17-year history, has brought more than 22,000 horses and their handlers to Augusta. In addition, it has brought thousands of spectators. In economic benefit, it has brought millions and millions of dollars.

What happened? The managers of the James Brown Arena essentially encouraged the championships to leave for Perry, Ga., after the event's long and wonderful ride in the Garden City.

After the James Brown Arena's bid to host the event this year wasn't even in the ballpark with other cities' - and it didn't seem to faze the arena's management one bit.

It's happened in the NBHA's home town, to boot: The association was founded right here in Augusta and is headquartered here.

Moreover, the world championships are exactly that: This is an international event that has helped put Augusta on the map. Competitors come from every state, and teams of competitors have come from Brazil, Australia, Panama, Canada, Italy, France and more. The world's highest-regarded equine publications have visited Augusta and done articles on the show. There's a live webcast that gets the Augusta name out to the world; and afterward, show programs, bumper stickers, jackets, T-shirts and other items that have the Augusta name on them get carried home by the competitors.

The economic damage done to the community by the show's departure is measurable. Last year's championships brought in up to 10,000 fans, more than 700 horses and several crew members for each horse, leaving a $1.4 million impact on this area, according to the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The current Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority didn't hire management company Global Spectrum in 2008. But it's this Coliseum Authority's solemn obligation to make sure the arena is being operated in the community's best interests.

It isn't - and it's clear why.

If the Global Spectrum people running your civic center are concerned only with turning a quick buck, as a third-party out-of-town company is, then they don't have the best interests of the community at heart.

If Global Spectrum managers actually cared about the community, they would see beyond their own profit-and-loss statements. They would keep an eye on the greater good. Taking in a tidy sum of money can't be the sum total of what a civic center does. It must also understand, appreciate and exercise its ability to stimulate the local economy with out-of-town visitors to its events.

A third-party manager whose mission is to maximize profits - even at the expense of local events - certainly isn't serving the community's interests. Sometimes the community's interests and the civic center's narrow interests diverge. This is where a third-party manager serves itself, rather than the rest of us.

Cities and counties work very hard and spend lots of money to attract new events to their towns. And why? Because it pays to do so. Regional and national conventions and competitions bring economic vitality, filling up local hotels, restaurants and event facilities, while growing the community's reputation.

After all that work to lure new events and attractions to town, why would you even consider taking established events for granted and basically telling them to hit the road?

How shortsighted. How incompetent. How tragic.