Amphitheater Envy, anyone?
Would someone let the Mayor know about these doggone Drifters?
The Augusta Greenjackets abandoned their stadium home of 25 years, Lake Olmstead Stadium, two years ago-moving across the river into South Carolina.
The Richmond County Commission soon thereafter decided to turn lemons into lemonade, embarking on a plan to create an amphitheater on the site of the former minor league ballpark.
To that end, the commission has paid $85,450 for consultants to offer suggestions on how to proceed.
The selected firm was tasked in assessing the CSRA’s overall entertainment market, develop a rough program for an amphitheater, prepare up to three preliminary concept drawings, develop an estimated project construction and design budget, prepare an estimated revenue stream, and develop a pro forma (detailed projected budget) for a year round operation.
Yet Insiders are not sold on the idea of the city getting into yet another situation of owning and operating another venue. The Augusta Richmond County Consolidated government currently owns and manages the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium, in addition to the 1,800-seat Jessye Norman Amphitheatre opened in 1990 and the Augusta Common opened in 2002.
The amphitheater is rarely used, and according to commissioners, the Augusta Common has attendance issues.
During the Richmond County Commission meeting Tuesday afternoon, Augusta Richmond County commissioners and the mayor expressed their anger and frustration that the city-owned facilities aren’t drawing crowds.
“I had an opportunity to go to the James Brown Birthday Bash in the Commons,” began District 1 Commissioher Bill Fennoy. “It was an all free event with only a handful of people (in attendance).”
The commissioner, who’s district encompasses the Common, Jessye Norman Amphitheater, JBA and Bell Auditorium as well as Lake Olmstead Stadium, continued, “Later on I had the opportunity to attend the Angie Stone concert, and again there was only a handful of people there.”
Recently, Fennoy advocated for moving the JBA out of his district, moving the downtown civic center to the former Regency Mall location. The opposition was so vociferous the plan was abandoned, but not before completely derailing Augusta’s chances for a new arena for years to come.
Fennoy was shocked by the lack of attendance at city sponsored events. “Most recently, it was the Drifters and the Tams. An all free event. Excellent events. I mean they put on a good show. But the attendance was very poor.”
Commissioner Marion Williams asked no one in particular, “I just want to know what needs to happen, so that if there’s an event in the Common we get the support that we need from the city and the people in the city in order to make these events successful.”
“I was downtown and it was an excellent, excellent, excellent event. But this is not the first time that I have said that we don’t promote or advertise anything positive in Augusta, and all the negative stuff flies everywhere – but we don’t do any support. Now all the money we spend on a lot of different things – but we, I don’t understand how we could have an event such as the one that was last week at the Commons and it wasn’t on radio, it wasn’t on TV, it wasn’t on the social media,” stated Williams.
“It was not publicized enough for anybody to come and spend time. Augusta is the centerpoint of this area. You may think is Evans Towne Center, but that’s not true.” Commissioner Williams said.
Which leads to a large part of the issue causing concern for taxpayers in Augusta. Amphitheater Envy, along with the large chip deposited on the shoulders of the board by the fleeing baseball team, has the commission seeking validation via tax dollars, without much of a history of doing any of it very well.
If the city leaders bungled a new entertainment complex and are openly venting about how no one supports their venue on Broad Street, what are the odds of this being a good investment?
Mayor Davis joined in the conversation. “I’m just going to be frank with you. I’m sick and tired of week after week, month after month, we go to this disconnected fashion trying to do things in our city that ultimately ends up with very little to show for?”
The mayor stated the need for a communications Department to share the good word of Augusta, but there was no one paying attention to his ideas. “It falls on deaf ears, because it’s the mayor’s idea,” bemoaned the Mayor.
Mayor Davis humbly continued, “Well in the words of a commission from the ninth, they pay me the big bucks to have ideas, and what I need then is group willing to support some of these ideas. All I’m interested in is how do we create an Augusta that works for everybody.”
“Until we decide if we’re going to put in place a framework for an organization that works we are just casting pearls before swine, and ultimately end up with the same results but wanting something different.” Preach mayor. Preach.
“Absent me getting a text message, I didn’t know about the Tams and the Drifters or Angie Stone, and I’m the mayor of the doggon city.”