Originally created 07/20/98

Games competitors look forward to venue change



ATLANTA -- If love of competition is the great motivator, the 1999 Georgia Games in Augusta shouldn't have any trouble attracting large numbers of participants.

Competitors will have to make alternate plans for the 1999 games since it will be the first time in their eight-year history that they will be held outside Atlanta.

However, many athletes say it's the games that bring them out not the location.

"It doesn't matter, I'll go anywhere to play basketball," said Shamekia Townes of Macon.

Townes plays for the Lady Knights in the 14-and-under division. As she waited to get on the court at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Townes said visiting another city is actually a bonus.

"It's going to be nice to go to Augusta since we've been here (Atlanta) so much," she said.

Diana Bell has two teen-age daughters who have made swimming in the Georgia Games an annual event. Margarett, 16, and Katherine, 13, have competed in the games because it serves as the state championship meet.

If the same distinction applies to the games in Augusta, the Bell family will make the trip up Interstate 20 from their Atlanta home next year.

"It depends on what the meet is for," Diana Bell said, adding this year's event is used for qualifying for a zone meet in Texas.

"A lot of these kids travel to the state games because it's the state championship. It's not where it's at but what it's for."

A new backdrop for the Georgia Games does appeal to racquetball player David Leon of Valdosta. He said he plans to compete in the 1999 games and believes many other competitors will do the same.

Leon, 36, has a sister living in Augusta and said he'll make his sixth appearance at the Georgia Games next July 22-25.

"It'll be great to go out and see the town," Leon said. "This is a lot of fun and to be in Augusta would be nice."

Getting people who take for granted the Georgia Games will always be in Atlanta to realize there are other cities in the state may be the biggest obstacle games officials must overcome to get participants to the 1999 games.

Doug Dicks of Alpharetta said he probably won't make the trek to Augusta because of the financial obligations involved.

Travel costs including hotels and food will be a factor, but not more than participants who have traveled to Atlanta the past eight years.

"I wouldn't go because I'd have to get a hotel; it's only a 40-minute drive now," Dicks said. "I can go home every day when it's in Atlanta."

The racquetball player said he might change his mind if golf is added to the 40-plus activities already offered.