Originally created 08/13/02

City debates coliseum control



Several Augusta commissioners are pushing for city management of the civic center and Bell Auditorium, calling current leadership of the city-owned facilities "beyond dysfunctional."

At an administrative services committee meeting Monday, Commissioner Andy Cheek said the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority has questionable business practices, weak booking abilities and poor tenant relations.

"It's up to (commissioners) and the legislative delegation to pull a big stick out and tell them to quit acting like children over there," Mr. Cheek said.

Commissioners said they are particularly concerned about a recent bungled civic center convention of the North Georgia United Methodists and the current contract status of the arenafootball2 league's Augusta Stallions.

Mayor Bob Young said resigning the Stallions to a contract by Sept. 1 - the league's scheduling deadline - should be the authority's highest priority.

"The situation is beyond dysfunctional," he said. "... I would suggest commissioners contact their appointees and tell them how serious this is and how inexcusable it would be to run off a tenant."

City Administrator George Kolb told the committee that the city has the "capacity" and the "responsibility" to manage the facilities, but stopped short of recommending that the authority be abolished.

At the request of Commissioner Bill Kuhlke, Mr. Kolb presented several options for city management of the facilities through an operating agreement with the authority.

Among Mr. Kolb's recommendations is that the city assume full management of the facilities through the Parks and Recreation Department, with the Augusta Metropolitan Convention & Visitors Bureau handling all convention business.

Mr. Kolb also said the city could hire a national arena management firm or a third-party management group, such as the convention and visitors bureau.

"The civic center and Bell Auditorium are assets of and should be protected by Augusta," Mr. Kolb told commissioners. "... It should be recognized that (coliseum authority members) are experiencing difficulties in ensuring the assets are productive for the community."

The four-member committee did not endorse the recommendations, however, with Mr. Kuhlke and Mr. Cheek voting for and Commissioners Bobby Hankerson and Lee Beard voting against.

Mr. Beard said the recommendations would likely be discussed at a joint-committee meeting of the commission and the legislative delegation, scheduled for Thursday.

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