Augusta venues back in business

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When Global Spectrum took over management of the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium in August 2008, the company expected two years would pass before things started to turn around at the troubled venues. A little more than a year later, the company considers the Augusta operation one of its great success stories.

Since the takeover, 386,077 tickets to 85 separate events at the facilities have been sold. In the year before Global Spectrum's installation, 207,700 tickets were sold. That number includes tickets for both the Augusta Lynx hockey team and Augusta Colts arena football team, two tenants that ceased operation in 2008.

The management team also succeeded in bringing the first rock shows in nearly 10 years to the arena, cut budgeted expenditures by $200,000 and put Augusta back on the booking map. General Manager Monty Jones said it's only the beginning.

"This last year was about establishing a baseline and relationships," he said. "We had to reach out to promoters, promoters that hadn't come to Augusta in years. We had to prove that shows could do well."

In November 2008, popular rock act Avenged Sevenfold headlined a concert at the James Brown Arena. It sold 5,233 of 6,300 available seats. Two months later, the band headlined a concert at Jobing.com Arena outside Phoenix, selling out the 19,000-seat venue. Mr. Jones said that Augusta can't expect to keep up with large, A-list markets such as Phoenix, but it can be considered successful because acts with that kind of pull are now considering Augusta a viable tour stop.

Other booking success stories include Steve Harvey, who sold 5,029 seats at the James Brown Arena; the touring production of Mamma Mia , which sold 11,000 tickets over the course of eight performances; and Anthony Hamilton, who sold out the Bell Auditorium in June.

"That's one of the things we can do," Mr. Jones said. "We can get those acts. We can utilize those connections we have through Global Spectrum. How it works is if an act is booked in, say, Columbia, they can directly pitch the buildings here."

Kayla Ott, director of marketing at the Augusta Entertainment Complex, said it's the way the recent Lynyrd Skynyrd show was secured.

Mr. Jones said the challenges have included calming nervous promoters put off by Augusta's well earned reputation as a last-minute ticket-buying town and trying to fill the extra nights suddenly available when the Augusta Lynx hockey team folded.

"Initially, even our corporate offices weren't expecting us to do as well as we did," he said. "We have made a tremendous turn, even with losing the hockey and arena football."

THE AUGUSTA ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX model has proved successful enough that Global Spectrum used it as a case study for similar venues in Stockton, Calif., and outside Chicago. Mr. Jones said the challenge now is capitalizing on established momentum and making smart booking decisions.

"It's important to remember that we are stewards of the public's money," he said. "And we were brought in to increase revenue and ticket sales. We're projecting more shows in the coming year, and more shows can mean more revenue. But it also means more expense."

One roadblock could be a proposal to route $600,000 in beer tax revenue away from the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority in an effort to ease the city's financial burdens.

"Obviously, we hope that doesn't happen," Mr. Jones said. "But if it does we'll just have to get creative in how we do things. We'll readjust, and we'll move forward."

No one is disputing that Global Spectrum has done a fine job. But how much of a reward Global is owed for its first-year performance has become a point of contention between the company and the new Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority.

Global's contract, entered into with the old board that was ousted by an act of the state Legislature last summer, called for an end-of-the-year bonus, termed a "benchmark calculation," based on increased revenues.

Mr. Jones says that by Global's math, the incentive pay should be about $90,000. But coliseum authority accountant J.T. Cosnahan puts the figure at $26,427.

The gap is significant because it's the difference between a 24 percent and an 82 percent boost in Global's Augusta earnings last year. The company earned $110,000 in management fees during the 11 months it managed the two venues in fiscal year 2008-09. (Last year, it earned $10,000 per month, and the fee has since been raised to $11,000 per month.)

Both sides say different interpretations of a contract could have been worded more clearly.

"It's not really specific on how to really do it," authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said.

Both sides also say they're confident the disagreement will be worked out amicably.

Global's representatives and authority members have so far been unable to reach an accord despite exhaustive meetings and pages of calculations. Finance Committee Chairman David Hogg said the goal is to not only agree on a figure but also to establish a concrete formula for determining it in years to come.

THE DISPUTE REPRESENTS another example of how Global Spectrum's turnaround of the entertainment complex has been difficult to measure in numbers.

Bookkeeping under past management left much to be desired, so revenue comparisons have been hard to come by.

Global has made money through different means, too. While the complex operation once relied on income generated by two sports teams, it's now thriving mostly on concerts and other stage shows.

What's more, Global hasn't yet been in place for a full fiscal year, and it has worked under both the old and current boards.

Former authority Chairman Richard Isdell said that after the Lynx and the Colts left, he spoke to Regional Vice President Doug Higgons about altering the benchmark formula.

"We said back then, yes, that we were willing to change the numbers, because it wasn't Global's fault," Mr. Isdell said.

He said he feels terrible that there's a dispute. As his board was being summarily booted, he said, there just wasn't time to tie up all the loose ends.

"That building was in horrible shape, and they turned it around, and they've put in a tremendous amount of effort," Mr. Isdell said. "If there's even the slightest benefit of the doubt, then they ought to give them the benefit of the doubt. They ought to make sure Global is as happy with us as we are with them."

Mr. Jones said altering the formula did come up in a meeting with the old authority, but that's not what's at issue now. Under the terms of the contract as it was originally written, he said, Global would be due $90,000 because it's raised gross revenues.

ACCORDING TO BOTH Mr. Jones and Mr. Cosnahan, the benchmark calculation involves comparing fiscal year 2008-09 revenues to the average of the annual revenues of the two prior fiscal years.

But Mr. Cosnahan said that under the contract it's to be done using net concessions revenues, the commission from concessions sales that goes to the coliseum authority. He said those totals from the past three years are $259,000, $142,000 and $195,000, meaning Global's first-year figure doesn't match the figure two years before when the Colts and the Lynx were going strong. Concessions were handled by Centerplate until its contract expired in early 2008. They're now under Ovations Food Services, which like Global Spectrum, is a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Comcast Spectacor.

Mr. Jones contends that the benchmark is supposed to be calculated with overall gross revenues, factoring in the management fee as well. He said the problem is that the Finance Committee hasn't had all the information it needs to work through the formula, and now that he's submitted more documentation to the authority he hopes the disagreement will be resolved at the next meeting.

In the meantime, Mr. Cosnahan said, an independent audit required under bond stipulations is being held up because he can't yet plug in Global's bonus.

Reach Steven Uhles or Johnny Edwards at (706) 724-0851.

Comments (22) Add comment
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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 11/17/09 - 03:34 am
0
0
Great Job - Quick TurnAround

Great Job - Quick TurnAround - Goes to show good management can acomplish anything. Would it be possible to turn over the city of Augusta to them? Keep up the good work.

Just My Opinion
5439
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Just My Opinion 11/17/09 - 05:32 am
0
0
Oh, here we go. Augusta has

Oh, here we go. Augusta has a good thing going with Global, and now the issue of a few thousand dollars is going to create a wedge between the city and Global. Let's hope this new Authority, or whatever it's being called, can clean this dispute up quickly, or we're going to witness another decline.

Junket831
0
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Junket831 11/17/09 - 06:41 am
0
0
Let's divert the money to be

Let's divert the money to be spent on reimbursing the traveling commissioners, particularly the lame ducks, and give a boost to Global. They should be rewarded for actually turning around a mess.

nofrills
0
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nofrills 11/17/09 - 07:23 am
0
0
I went to see a few concerts

I went to see a few concerts at Brown arena and I was surprised to see such acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd , Blackberry Smoke etc.. We need to thank Global for this and not play with money they earned

stillamazed
1488
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stillamazed 11/17/09 - 08:42 am
0
0
I think that given the

I think that given the opportunity they will continue to make the arena money and bring acts in that people actually want to see..

ripjones
2
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ripjones 11/17/09 - 08:54 am
0
0
Pay Global for the good that

Pay Global for the good that they have done. However, also remember that Augusta will never have true top-shelf, current acts, with their full complement. It was not Elton John's full show. We will always fight geography -- acts will play Columbia or Atlanta. Never a Kenny Chesney or Celin Dion or Gloria Estefan. I'm very proud for what Global Spectrum has accomplished, but I will still be having to drive to Atlanta, Columbia, or Charlotte.

quickfeet
0
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quickfeet 11/17/09 - 08:58 am
0
0
time for the colliseum board

time for the colliseum board to put the handcuffs on global spectrum. they are just doing to good a job...

Newsreader
11
Points
Newsreader 11/17/09 - 09:56 am
0
0
I still think we are wasting

I still think we are wasting taxpayer money by having the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority at all. They are duplicating services already available to the citizens. The Augusta-Richmond County Commission could be the legislative oversight while an existing county department (Recreation, Facilities, or almost any department) could be the liasion between Global and the government. What purpose does the Coliseum Authority serve?

ROCJ68
0
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ROCJ68 11/17/09 - 10:18 am
0
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I read this article with

I read this article with interest but found it hard to understand why no mention was made of the nearly full arena this past Saturday night for The Gaither Vocal Band Reunion concert.

FedupwithAUG
0
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FedupwithAUG 11/17/09 - 10:20 am
0
0
Your right Newsreader. That

Your right Newsreader. That should be looked into. I also question the "calculated with overall gross revenues, factoring in the management fee as well" statement. It's seems it should be based on Gross Profits. Gross revenues sounds like they could spend $1 million to bring in acts but only sell $500K in tickets. Sure they sold more then in 2008 but yet they spent more. Would be interesting to see this formula. Great job Global Spectrum keep up the good work.

reesiecup
0
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reesiecup 11/17/09 - 10:26 am
0
0
Just like everything else in

Just like everything else in Augusta, if it is a good thing- which it appears to be, the coliseum authority or the commissioners will screw it up. Global earned the money so give it to them!

willienelson
5
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willienelson 11/17/09 - 10:49 am
0
0
Just shows to go you. Keep

Just shows to go you. Keep government out of any profit oriented enterprise. But....let's all get behind the public option in health care. I'm sure the govermnent will do a great job here and provide needed services for far less. Hillary/Palin 2012!

augustalawyer
0
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augustalawyer 11/17/09 - 11:00 am
0
0
OK, so Global saves the civic

OK, so Global saves the civic center and now the city wants to get cheap with the contracted bonus and cheat them from their fees. It is proof positive that you cannot trust or rely on the leadership in the City of Augusta without getting the knife in the back. It is the same for every other private group that has saved the city from itself like the water treatment contract, etc, etc. The city has no loyalty, no honor and no integrity.

curly123053
4489
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curly123053 11/17/09 - 11:43 am
0
0
It is all about greed in the

It is all about greed in the city government. Global has done a great job turning around the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditoreum. Even Global's successful operation of the USCA Convocation Center has made money for Augusta. I know of several of my frinds who stayed in Augusta hotels and ate in Augusta restaurants while they attended events at the Convocation Center. The successful operation of 3 venues within 20 miles of each other has meant extra tax revenue for Richmond County. I say Global has earned their bonus. Do not mess jup a good thing. I do not know what else the commission wants. Is it related to greed?

createyourfuture
68
Points
createyourfuture 11/17/09 - 11:55 am
0
0
Now let's move a SPHL team

Now let's move a SPHL team here.

corgimom
30081
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corgimom 11/17/09 - 11:57 am
0
0
Give them the bonus. They

Give them the bonus. They have earned it.

sjgraci
2
Points
sjgraci 11/17/09 - 12:37 pm
0
0
Bring hockey back!

Bring hockey back!

gnx
7
Points
gnx 11/17/09 - 01:28 pm
0
0
Now we see who really knows

Now we see who really knows how to bring money in via the JB and Bell venues. Keep Global happy and get rid of that useless Coliseum Authority.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 11/17/09 - 02:14 pm
0
0
So the dispute is a little

So the dispute is a little over a difference of $60,000. The city should pay up. We know what will happen if they don't. Global will not re-bid at the end of the current contract, and they will sue the city. Of course, the cost of legal fees and the judgement against the city that Global will win will be way more than $60,000. The city should just pay the fees and stop trying to hinder a good relationship with Global.

imdstuf
10
Points
imdstuf 11/17/09 - 03:55 pm
0
0
Hey, I have an idea. Lets

Hey, I have an idea. Lets get rid of this company that knows what it is doing, and bring in some old fart to run the civic center and bell auditorium!

twilahzone
0
Points
twilahzone 11/17/09 - 06:53 pm
0
0
Give Global their bonus. They

Give Global their bonus. They have earned it. I am just curious....how many Coliseum Authority members actually enjoy Augusta's nightlife after 5 p. m.? How many actually attend concerts of ANY capacity? I don't hear that much about what these people actually do--other than disagree with each other and anyone who tries to turn JBA or BA around. In response to ripjones: You are right. I will (also) still have to drive to Charlotte, Columbia, Atlanta, or Greenville to see the top-shelf acts.

chopchic
0
Points
chopchic 11/17/09 - 08:28 pm
0
0
There are more intangibles to

There are more intangibles to keeping top acts coming to Augusta. I attended the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and ate at a downtown establishment. The place was absolutely packed...I asked our server if this was normal for a Thursday night and she said no way...it was the result of 2 good shows in one night that were bringing the people in. If I were to attend a show at the JB or the Bell, I would almost certainly patronize a downtown restaurant before the show. Just keep those top shows coming!

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