Originally created 10/06/04

Charges lead to lawsuit



The Augusta Lynx hockey team ownership has asked a judge to settle its dispute with the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority about being billed for the use of a spotlight and a sound technician during hockey games.

Augusta Entertainment LLC filed suit against the authority in Richmond County Superior Court on Tuesday, asking the court to decide whether the authority can legally bill the team for spotlights and a sound system operator for the upcoming season and charge them $12,500 for the 2003-04 hockey season.

Augusta Entertainment contends that in the middle of the 2003-04 season the authority notified the corporation that it was going to charge $175 per game for each spotlight and $121 for a sound system operator for weekday games and $148.50 for weekend and holiday games. Their lease agreement with the authority does not provide for such charges.

For the first 5 years of the agreement, the authority provided both the sound system operator and the use of the spotlight as part of the rental fee without additional charge. Consequently, Augusta Entertainment is asking the judge to determine whether the authority can now unilaterally impose the charges over and above the agreed-on rent.

The Coliseum authority voted 5-4 last week to erase the $12,500 debt.

Augusta Entertainment attorney Doug Batchelor said he is asking the judge to rule that his client does not owe the charges for last year.

"In the meantime, we're going to propose to the court that they continue to provide the service but we will pay into court what they would have charged us otherwise, and that money can be held and at the end of the case can be dispersed as the court so orders," he said.

The lease agreement does not say the authority can charge Augusta Entertainment for the lights and sound system operator, Mr. Batchelor said.

"It says that we pay a rent for the arena," he said. "That means all the lights, all the seats, all the bathrooms, all the stairways. They have never tried to charge us for 5 years, and it's something they came up with in the middle of last season.

"Their theory seems to be the lease says they can't charge us for that. But if we pay this, what's to stop them from charging us for the bathrooms, charging us for the other lights. We just think it's not fair. It's not right. We tried to work it out with them, and this is our last option."

Coliseum Authority member Millard Cox said he thought Augusta Entertainment was a "bunch of bologna."

"It's costing us $11,000 to get the coliseum ready for the hockey, and they don't want to pay the $12,000 they owe us from last year," he said.

"You've got at most 1,900 people attend a hockey game. Richmond County's got over 200,000 people. So are we supposed to give them $12,000 when they want it? Are we supposed to give them part of the concessions? Are we supposed to give them part of the parking lot? Every time they come down there they've got their hand out wanting something free. It's not going to happen. Not on my watch."

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