News 12 at 6 o'clock, January 08, 2008
AUGUSTA, Ga.---They are the people responsible for giving us a reason to take in a concert at the James Brown Arena, but things have not been easy for the Augusta Coliseum Authority. The problem: too many empty seats.
Local lawmakers met this morning to talk about the future of the arena. Some people say the board has run its course. Some not so sure.
"They need board training desperately immediately...they need board training," said Tanya Barnhill.
Barnhill was a media salesperson for about 20 years. She is fresh off of a run for the Augusta Commission. She sat in on Tuesday's Coliseum Authority board meeting and said one thing is clear: "They didn't have the vaguest idea of what in the world they were doing."
The 12 member Authority board is coming under fire after disappointing ticket sales and failure to bring attractions that would sell out the James Brown Arena.
"We get criticism...I understand, but every now and then we do a good thing too, and we think we're on the verge of doing what we're supposed to do. We work hard in getting this civic center back on track," said board member Freddie Sanders.
There are around 6,000 to 8,000 seats in the arena. On hockey night there are about 2,000 people. The latest concert, R.Kelly, attracted about 4,000 people. The numbers are just not there. The Authority is skating on thin ice.
"I don't think anybody on the delegation has ever served on an arena board. We think we know that the public wants competent management and we need to do something to ensure that we have public confidence," said Senator Ed Tarver.
The Augusta Richmond County legislative delegation voted to place the board on review. They also sided with Barnhill saying the solution is simple: "Something just as simple as providing orientation to let the Authority members become more aware of what's expected of them could be the item that really just brings all this together," said delegation chairman Quincy Murphy.
The entertainment complex is depending on $2 million a year in hotel-motel taxes to stay on track after a year where empty seats became an all too familiar sight.
"I hope we don't judge whether or not the civic center's a success by whether or not every show sells out. We had good crowds, the shows went well, and that's what it's about," said Sanders.
Board members voted to fire their attorney and accountant this afternoon.
In a statement, board member Willie Law tells News 12, "We need people who are going to work with the board."