Augusta has officially lost professional hockey again with the RiverHawks moving to Macon, Ga.
RiverHawks owners Bob and Diane Kerzner announced they will move their Southern Professional Hockey League franchise to Macon, Ga., during a news conference Wednesday at the Marriott City Center in Macon.
The team will be named the Macon Mayhem and will play in the Macon Centreplex on a five-year contract, according to Bob Kerzner. He said the team will begin play in 2015.
“Macon gave a great impression,” he said. “They were 100 percent behind it, so it was a seamless decision. When the community wants you to come, it makes it an easy move.”
Kerzner acknowledged June 17 that he was in contract discussions with Macon to use the facility. The Macon-Bibb County Commission unanimously agreed that day to rent out the arena for hockey.
“Everybody is very happy about it,” Kerzner said. “We’re all fired up. It’s an exciting day.”
The RiverHawks announced May 14, 2013, that they would not play the 2014 season at James Brown Arena. The team was forced to play its final eight 2013 home games at Augusta Ice Sports Center after the arena’s cooling system failed and the ice melted.
Kerzner waited for possible compensation from the forced move, but it never came. He moved to a legal process with Global Spectrum, which manages the arena, to find a resolution for compensation.
Talks of repairing the ice system in the arena went dormant. Kerzner said last week that attorneys were still discussing a resolution.
The RiverHawks played three seasons in Augusta. Before that, the Augusta Lynx folded in 2008 after 11 seasons.
Longtime hockey fan Sam Roney believes it will be a while before hockey returns again.
“I don’t think it will come back until we get a new arena,” Roney said. “If somebody puts one in Columbia County, that will solve a lot of problems.
Staff writer Chris Gay contributed to this article.
AUGUSTA HOCKEY TIMELINE
SEPT. 4, 1997: The Augusta Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted to spend almost $1 million to install an ice floor in the civic center, clearing the way for a minor league hockey team.
FEB. 26, 1998: Owner George Gillespie unveiled the Augusta Lynx name and logo. Gillespie purchased the Raleigh Ice Caps in June of 1998 with the intentions of moving the team to Augusta.
OCT. 15, 1998: The first Augusta Lynx game was a win for the home team. The Lynx beat the Jacksonville Lizard Kings 9-5 in front of 7,151 fans.
NOV. 22, 2002: Gillespie introduced Augusta Ice Sports Center co-owner Pete Budwick as a minority owner, the team’s first local owner.
SEPT. 24, 2003: The ECHL approved the sale of the Lynx to Augusta Entertainment LLC, a local ownership group led by local car dealership owner Frank Lawrence. The new ownership group, which purchased the team for just over $1 million, also included William S. Morris III, chairman and chief executive officer of Morris Communications Co., and publisher of The Augusta Chronicle.
APRIL 20, 2006: The ECHL approved the sale of the Lynx to the Group Operating the Augusta Lynx (G.O.A.L.). The new ownership group was led by local businessman Dan Troutman, and Jan Hodges Burch and Robert Burch.
DEC. 2, 2008: Ownership announced their intentions to fold the team.
FEB. 9, 2010: A news conference is scheduled to introduce Augusta as the newest member of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
OCT. 22, 2010: The RiverHawks begin play in Augusta and lose the home opener in a 5-3 loss to the Huntsville Havoc in front of 2,542 fans.
APRIL 15, 2011: The Mississippi Surge knocked off the first-year Augusta RiverHawks to claim the Southern Professional Hockey League championship.
APRIL 2012: No. 8 seed Huntsville Havoc bounce Augusta, the No. 1 seed, from the first round of the playoffs.
MARCH 4, 2013: The RiverHawks are displaced after James Brown Arena’s cooling system failed, causing the ice to melt. The team will play its final eight home games at Augusta Ice Sports Center in front of season-ticket holders and sponsors.
MARCH 21, 2013: RiverHawks fail to qualify for playoffs.
MAY 14, 2013: RiverHawks announce they will not be playing next season and are taking a leave from league play for one season.
JUNE 25, 2014: RiverHawks owners announce team is moving to Macon, Ga., and will play in SPHL as Macon Mayhem.
– From staff reports