Community concerned about RiverHawks leaving

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Augusta Riverhawks

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It looks like a move to Macon could happen for the Augusta RiverHawks. Last night, the Macon-Bibb County Commission approved a rental agreement for the team to play in the Macon Coliseum.

The vote was unanimous. The Macon Centreplex says the Southern Professional Hockey League will allow Macon to host a team. While the RiverHawks have not officially announced a move, some are already worried, and say losing the team would mean losing a community.

Hockey has played a big part in Jake Benigni's life for a very long time.

"My wife knew me, we actually dated when I was playing junior hockey," Jake said. "So it was on the top of his list when he was looking for a new place to live. The Benigni family moved to Augusta during the summer, and the first thing they did was get the kids to the rink," Benigni said.

Hockey for the Benignis and other Augusta area families means more than just the sport, it's about community.

"It's a tight knit family, even though there's thousands of players and thousands of rinks, in reality you always wind up knowing somebody or knowing somebody who knows somebody," Benigni said.

The RiverHawks have played a big part of this as well. His son has even said he wants to join the RiverHawks one day.

Now that the team is contemplating a move to Macon, they'll be leaving the Benigni family, and other folks in the hockey community like Duncan Crerar behind.

Duncan has worked at Augusta Ice Sports Center for fourteen years now, on the same ice the RiverHawks have practiced and played. He's less concerned about losing money, and more concerned about the toll this move might have on the people. For folks like Jake, if the RiverHawks do leave, it will be a big loss.

The Augusta Ice Sports Center has had financial problems in the past. In 2011, we reported the rink was shutting down during the summer. At the time, the owner said the ice center had been losing money since Masters Week and could not afford to keep the doors open. After opening their doors again, they say that this move shouldn't affect the rink too much financially.

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