Originally created 09/15/03

Coliseum ad talks continue



The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority will meet with attorneys for the prospective new owners of the Augusta Lynx hockey team today to discuss last week's vote on sign-rental revenue.

The authority voted Tuesday to let Augusta Entertainment Corp. LLC, the local buyers, market the signs in the civic center arena and pay the authority a flat fee of $50,000 a year. The board also voted to allow the group to sell ads for signs in the building's concourse, with authority approval. The authority would retain the rights to eight advertising spaces.

The agreement still must be accepted by the Lynx and Augusta Entertainment. The issue threatens to derail the sale and limit preparations for this year's season.

Authority member Bill Maddox, who made Tuesday's motion when members began to balk at continuing the current revenue arrangement with a new ownership group, said the board might be asked to throw in the eight other signs.

"If they're willing to pay $50,000, I think it would be fair for them to have the advertising rights in the arena and the concourse, providing what they put in the concourse meets the approval of the board," Mr. Maddox said. "I'm sure they're going to make some money on this advertising. This will probably be a good deal for them. But if they'll give us $50,000, that will be a good deal for us, too, because we only got $14,000 last year."

Authority Chairman Billy Holden takes an opposing view.

"I'd like to get all the advertising back," he said. "That's just my personal opinion, but I think everybody ought to advertise during their event.

"The only person that should have advertising rights in the civic center are the taxpayers, which is represented by the authority."

Mr. Holden said that when Frank Lawrence, one of the prospective buyers, owned the Augusta Stallions, an arena football team that played in the civic center, he opposed the Lynx's having the advertising rights. Now, as a prospective buyer of the Lynx, he wants the hockey team to keep the advertising rights.

"He said he couldn't make it with the Stallions because the Lynx had all the advertising," Mr. Holden said. "Now he wants to do the same thing to everybody else that he claims the Lynx was doing to him."

Mr. Holden denied that he is trying to run the Lynx off.

"The Lynx have got a five-year contract, and they're not going anywhere," he said. "You couldn't take a pistol and run the Lynx off."

Authority member Millard Cox said that whether the board and the buyers can come to terms will be a tossup.

"We don't want to lose them, but we can't give away the building," he said.

Members Bernard Harper and Carolyn Usry said they were optimistic that an agreement can be reached.

"I think we'll salvage it," Mr. Harper said. "I hope we do. I wouldn't want to see the team leave Augusta."

Mrs. Usry said the buyers will be able to promote the Lynx and bring in more people to increase concession and parking revenue.

"We do not need to lose the Lynx," she said.

Authority member Annie Rogers, the only one to vote against Mr. Maddox's motion, said she didn't know what to expect today.

"I'll just have to wait and see," she said. "I'm sure they (the buyers) must not have been happy with what we agreed on."

Overturning Tuesday's vote would take a two-thirds vote, according to Mr. Maddox.

"I think a majority of the board will buy the compromise, and we can go ahead and forget it," he said. "We certainly want to try to keep them here, if possible."

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.