Several members of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority said Friday that only a token effort was made to sign the Augusta Stallions to a contract for 2003.
Their statements contradict the assertions of the interim chairman, Joe Scott, and attorney Ziva Bruckner, who said the authority made major concessions in trying to appease the arena football team.
The group appointed to negotiate with the Stallions offered to beef up security and janitorial staffs during games, but denied the Stallions any share in concession and advertising revenues.
Authority member Bill Maddox said it was the wrong deal to offer a businessman.
"What incentive did they give him financially?" he said. "We could have given him a share of concessions or advertising or parking. We could have gotten creative with it, but I don't think an all-out effort was there."
Stallions owner Frank Lawrence did not submit a counteroffer and instead composed a letter to interim general manager Linda Roberts declaring his intention to shut the team down for 2003.
Ms. Bruckner and Mr. Scott said the absence of a counteroffer suggests Mr. Lawrence had no intention of bringing the team back in 2003, a charge the Stallions owner vehemently denies.
"We did not want to fold this team," Mr. Lawrence said at a Friday news conference. "This is not something we're excited about."
Even though the Stallions were never profitable, losing money in each of their three seasons in Augusta, the team's long-term prospects were bright, Mr. Lawrence said.
The civic center earned about $68,000 in revenues minus direct expenses for the Stallions' eight home games in 2002. Mr. Scott said the authority would likely have approved a deal for 2003 in which the arena just breaks even, although no such proposal was made.
"Frank was dragging his feet - that's the way it appeared to us," Mr. Scott said. "The whole board wants them to stay."
Authority member Fred Reed said more could have been done to keep the Stallions, but he isn't sure whether the team wanted to play next year.
"Part of me says Frank didn't want to come back - he hasn't made any money and the best thing to do is shut it down," Mr. Reed said. "On the other hand, I thought it was a tremendous product, and more could have been done if we'd put the right people in there to negotiate."
Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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