Originally created 07/05/99

Hotels see bookings as Georgia Games nears



The numbers are racking up: 200 hotel rooms, 500 visitors booked, 1,500 volunteers.

But some of the most crucial numbers are decreasing fast -- only 16 days to the Georgia Games.

"I'm afraid to look at the paper these days," says Tammy Stout, a Georgia Games steering committee member and executive director of the Greater Augusta Sports Council. Ms. Stout, arriving at the Georgia Games headquarters for an early morning meeting, gestures at the countdown in the top left corner of The Augusta Chronicle.

"That countdown keeps getting lower and lower."

With little more than two weeks left until the Georgia Games begin in Augusta, organizers are into the nitty-gritty, trying to wrap up the last of the details. An operations center will be set up at Regency Mall this week, moving the headquarters out of the small Reynolds Street building it's occupied.

An overall estimation of where the effort stands?

"It's going well," says Eugene Parker, executive director of the steering committee. "It's going extremely well. Magnificently well."

That doesn't mean there have been no setbacks. The committee has been unable to reach an agreement with a computer company that was going to supply machines for the operations center -- but someone else has agreed to lend eight computers if they fall short.

Field hockey has been canceled -- only two Atlanta-based teams have registered to play, and they agreed to an exhibition match in their hometown to cut the cost of hauling equipment to Augusta and setting up the venue.

Organizers have planned for as many as 8,000 athletes, but so far fewer than 1,000 have registered. But organizers say they are expecting a surge of last-minute entries.

"A lot of these people are amateur athletes who are used to playing tournaments on the weekends," said Robby Kiser, a steering committee member overseeing the competition. "They can call up on Wednesday and say `I want to play this weekend.' We don't have anyone registered for women's softball right now -- but I expect to have at least 30 (teams)."

All the venues -- more than 40 -- have been booked. And volunteer rolls are filling up: About 1,500 people are in the volunteer database, with as many as 700 who have not yet completed their forms. Training sessions are scheduled throughout the week.

Hotels are starting to see an economic benefit from the upcoming games. About 500 people have booked 200 hotel rooms, said Barry White of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, who is overseeing housing for the steering committee.

"Several hotels have sold out," he said. "Homewood Suites is full; Hampton Inn is full. And Radisson Suites is getting close."

Organizers also are finalizing contracts for the Opening Ceremonies, scheduled for July 23 at the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center. Tickets are set to go on sale Thursday.

Alisa DeMao can be reached at (706) 823-3223 or ademao@augustachronicle.com.