Originally created 03/06/02

Arena's staffing remains unclear



Coliseum officials still haven't agreed on who will run the civic center once management group SMG leaves at the end of June.

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority on Tuesday delayed a decision until two incoming board members are sworn in to replace Austin Rhodes and Calvin Holland. The board, however, is divided on whether to hire a private management group or run the arena itself.

Board member Quincy Murphy opened the meeting with a motion to hire current General Manager Reggie Williams to run the arena for the board. Mr. Murphy amended his motion after a closed-door session that lasted more than an hour, saying the board should run the arena itself but not necessarily hire Mr. Williams.

His motion was bested by a substitute motion to delay a decision.

"The board wants to bring in additional persons to be interviewed and explore all its options," Mr. Murphy said. "But the sooner a decision is made, the better."

Vice Chairman Joe Scott, who supported the motion to hire Mr. Williams, said some board members are staunchly opposed.

At issue, Mr. Scott said, is a letter Mr. Williams wrote to Augusta Stallions owner Frank Lawrence last week, threatening to cancel the arenafootball2 team's 2002 season if several disputed debts aren't resolved.

"Some members are using that letter to turn other board members against (Mr. Williams)," Mr. Scott said.

Arena records show the Stallions owe about $8,000 in unpaid expenses from the team's first two seasons, but Mr. Lawrence said he wants more thorough documentation.

"We want to pay our bill, and there was never any question we wouldn't pay it," Mr. Lawrence said. "We would like to know what we owe and feel comfortable with that figure. Give us accurate accounting and we'll be glad to pay."

Mr. Rhodes, an outgoing board member who has long supported hiring a new management company, said Mr. Williams was wrong to demand payment of bills through a letter that would inevitably be made public.

"There is a legitimate debate on the amount of money the football team owes us, and we have to get to the bottom of that before a settlement is made," Mr. Rhodes said. "It was an incredible misjudgment to send that letter."

Mr. Williams is a favorite of some board members for general manager if the authority runs the arena itself; if the board hires a new management group, that company would likely bring in its own management team.

Mr. Williams, who is still an employee of SMG, has said he is prepared for whatever decision the board makes.

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or john.banks@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT: The authority's next official meeting is scheduled for March 26, but Chairman Bill Maddox said he may call a special meeting before then.