Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority members and the prospective owner of the Augusta Lynx hockey team reached a tentative agreement today on sign rental in the civic center complex.
The authority voted 7-3 to rescind last week's agreement to pay Augusta Entertainment LLC a flat $50,000 a year for the right to sell sign ads for the arena, after negotiating a pact suitable to both sides.
The new agreement calls for the Lynx to pay the authority an escalating amount during the life of the team's five-year contract. The prospective Lynx buyers - who agreed earlier this summer to purchase the team from its longtime ownership group - would pay the authority:
$30,000; Oct. 2003-Sept. 2004
$30,000; Oct. 2004-Sept. 2005
$40,000; Oct. 2005-Sept. 2006
$50,000; Oct. 2006-Sept. 2007
$50,000; Oct. 2007-Sept. 2008
Augusta Entertainment could increase the 2004-2005 fee to $40,000 if an audit of ad revenue next year warrants the increase, said Paul Simon, who attended the meeting to represent the potential new ownership group - Augusta Entertainment.
The vote would give Augusta Entertainment the right to rent all signs in the arena and those in the concourse with authority approval. It also would allow for the signs to be covered with banners during other shows if the promoters of those shows requested it.
Mr. Simon said the agreement must be approved by the new ownership group, which has not completed the team purchase, in part because of the sign dispute.
Voting against member Bill Maddox's motion were Annie Rogers, John Manuel, Joe Scott Jr. and Ellis Albright.
Mr. Scott, Mrs. Rogers and Ellis Albright said they were opposed to voting for a new sign-rental agreement because the authority had been unable to get figures from the current owners showing how much money they had made on the rental.
"Why can't we get the last five years' backup information of what the Lynx made the last five years?" Mr. Scott said. "Then we might be able to talk about something."
Despite his vote against the agreement, Mr. Scott, a hockey fan, said he was glad that it passed.
Member Bernard Harper agreed the authority needed to know how much the Lynx had made off the sign rentals.
"I don't want to see the hockey team go, but I don't want to see us go down an alley and get mugged," Mr. Harper said.
Authority Chairman Billy Holden said the $14,000 the current owners paid the authority for sign rental last year wasn't really representative of the amount rented.
Mr. Simon noted the Lynx still lost $370,000. "We know the team is losing money," he said. "We think we can make a difference."
He said the new owners could not agree to pay $50,000 a year or to give up the sign rental.
"If we give up the signage, we can't make this work," he said.
After the meeting, Allen Hamilton, president of the Augusta Lynx Boosters Club, said he thought the vote was a step in the right direction.
"For the Lynx sake, it was probably a good deal as well as the authority probably got something they were looking for," he said. "I'm very excited they worked it out. I wanted to see hockey in Augusta and the entire CSRA area."
New Manager Larry Rogers also said the vote was a step in the right direction.
"This controversy has been going on too long," he said. "It just needs to be put to bed."