Originally created 11/21/02

Civic center lowers food costs



Concessions and the prospect of going broke were topics that divided members of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority on Wednesday.

The board reduced prices on some concessions sold at the civic center and Bell Auditorium by approving the concessions committee's recommendations on a 5-3 vote.

Members Bill Maddox, Millard Cox and Fred Reed Jr. voted against the reductions. Members Annie Rogers, Mildred McDaniel, William Holden Jr., Belle Clark and Carolyn Usry voted for them, saying the lower prices would trigger more sales and encourage people to attend events.

"The whole purpose is to try to increase attendance," Mr. Holden said.

Mr. Maddox, however, said he was not convinced it would work and made a substitute motion to hold off on the price reductions until the effect on revenue could be analyzed. His motion failed.

"If we keep doing this, we're not going to be able to meet the payroll," he said.

A regional vice president of Fine Host Corp., the center's concessionaire, said in an October letter that cutting prices by 25 cents on 16-ounce and 21-ounce soft drinks and 50 cents on 32-ounce soft drinks would reduce revenue by $51,771 and cost the authority $20,708 a year.

In other business, the board refused a promoter's request to ban consumption of concessions during performances of Les Miserables at Bell Auditorium in February. Board members said they have already made several compromises for the promoter to get the production to come to Augusta, including reducing intermission time to 15 minutes from 20 minutes.

Board Chairman Bernard Harper said the ban would cut down on concession sales.

"We're going to lose money," he said.

Mr. Holden agreed.

"They have beat us down, beat us down, and now they want us to cut back on the concessions we sell," he said.

The authority also was divided over whether to revisit the sale of concessions during graduations as a way of increasing revenue. Concessions are not sold at the request of the school board, members said.

Mr. Cox said he hoped the authority would get a doctor on board in January to "stop the bleeding" at the civic center.

"Every month we come down here, the revenue is down, the expenses are up," he said.

Ms. Rogers and Ms. McDaniel said eating and drinking during graduations detract from the solemn ceremony.

"It just really takes away from the occasion," Ms. Rogers said.

Mr. Cox said, however, that the only thing the civic center is making money on is concessions.

After the meeting, Mr. Maddox lamented the operation's financial condition, noting that the payroll is almost $1 million a year and that the facility is $398,564.78 in the red for the first four months of this fiscal year.

Mr. Harper said he too was discouraged but not ready to "throw in the towel."

"I counted $30,000 in losses today and no profits," he said. "If we keep going like this, we're going to have to lock the doors."

Mr. Harper also said the search committee for a new manager to replace Reggie Williams, who was fired earlier this year, had interviewed two management companies and three individuals but "did not find the right fit."

The committee will continue to meet but has decided not to readvertise for a manager.

"That was not my decision. It was the committee's decision," Mr. Harper said.

He asked how sensible it was to interview other candidates if the top five candidates weren't suitable.

NEW PRICES

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority reduced these concession prices Wednesday:

  • A 32-ounce soda in a plastic souvenir cup from $4.75 to $4; a regular 32-ounce drink from $4.25 to $3.75; and a 12-ounce soft drink was added to selections for $1.75
  • Regular nachos from $3.50 to $3.25
  • Hamburgers and cheeseburgers from $3.75 to $3
  • A slice of pizza from $4.50 to $3.50
  • Regular hot dogs from $2.50 to $2.25
  • Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.