It’s alarming when news coverage about a hot new country-pop act playing Augusta focuses not on the actual concert, but on the venue’s difficulty to accommodate it.
Indeed, the story of Florida Georgia Line’s appearance at Lake Olmstead Stadium on Friday was one of aggravation on the part of an estimated 10,000 fans who had to take shuttle buses to the concert because of traffic congestion and lack of parking at the stadium.
Long lines and congestion delayed many concert-goers who were forced to park on Georgia Regents University property because the 700 stadium parking passes made available by stadium management quickly sold out. Some ticket holders even missed the opening acts.
Lake Olmstead is a fine facility, and it’s more than adequately equipped to handle the crowds drawn by its main user, the Augusta GreenJackets baseball team. However, the facility’s poor egress and landlocked location clearly make it a poor choice to play host to a major concert.
The duo that comprises Florida Georgia Line specifically chose the ballpark because the venue fit the theme of its summer stadium-concert series. Let the Friday night traffic jam serve as a warning to organizers considering similar events in the future.
Such a concert would have posed similar logistical problems had the stadium been along the downtown riverfront, as the GreenJackets’ owners had campaigned to do for years. We didn’t see a need to move the stadium then, and we don’t see the need now.
It certainly would make sense for the stadium owners to expand facility parking by exploring the acquisition of vacant and underused parcels around the stadium, but the larger issue is Augusta’s lack of a modern sports and entertainment complex capable of accommodating events with a regional draw.
Proposals for such a facility were floated more than a decade ago by a group of Augusta businessmen led by the late Frank Lawrence, who owned Bobby Jones Ford and the Augusta Lynx hockey team, and Morris Communications CEO William S. Morris III.
Their concept of a public-private facility along a major expressway in Richmond or Columbia counties failed to gain political traction, and later was shelved. Though interest in a multipurpose venue has waned, the need obviously has not. This past weekend’s concert chaos reaffirms that.
It is tempting for community leaders to point fingers, laying blame or playing the “I told you so” game, but we would rather they focus attention on developing a solution.