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Macon Coliseum and City Auditorium need costly renovations

Macon Coliseum (Chris Hinson, WGXA TV)

When it comes to housing major events and concerts, there's really no place around like the Macon Coliseum and the City Auditorium around.

But management concerns and aging facilities cost middle Georgia some events in the past few years.

Whether it's the Macon Mayhem or special events like the globetrotters, you can find plenty of excitement at the Macon Centreplex.

But newly hired General Manager David Aiello admits there are some things that are missing.

"Going forward we have a list of capital projects we want to do from getting the lighting system up to snuff, getting a new stage, getting the basketball floor," Aiello said. "There's a long list things it's going to take time for us to be able to get some of those items we need to just keep bringing in events and making sure they're successful."

Aiello is the general manager of the Centreplex. He works with a company called Spectra that Bibb County pays to manage and run the building and events. He's just settling in but likes what he sees.

"A lot of times we come into these markets and you either don't have the backing of the community or you don't have the backing of the local government and here were in a very good situation because we have both of those," Aielo said.

But this building and the City Auditorium which Spectra also manages need a lot of upgrades. Right now Aiello says Spectra is working on a long list of improvements.

"I mean we probably have a three-page list of operational things we're just trying to get get done this year," he said. "To continue to keep doing the deep cleanings the paintings, the paints, and really getting up to snuff to where we want it to be."

But there are big ticket items needed too. For instance Macon lost the state basketball championships last year because of some facility complaints. That was before Spectra took over, but this year in their new location in Atlanta there's a giant video screen. They are a mainstay in most venues, but not in Macon.

And the building needs plumbing and climate control upgrades.

After nearly 100 years of events,the City Auditorium could require at least $20 million dollars in upgrades according to the city of Macon spokesperson Chris Floore. It's going to take special purpose local option sales tax for really big upgrades, but Aiello says the bones are good.

"Structurally this is a beautiful building as is the Auditorium," he said. "We have no complaints as far as the flow of concerts the flow of games. So I think these two facilities could be here fora while and even be successful."

Macon-Bibb County historically operates the Coliseum at a $1.8 to $2.3 million loss per year.

Even with the deal with Spectra they are planning to lose about $1.3 million this year.

But because of the outside dollars it brings in and economic impact along with the improved quality of life provided by concerts and events, Mayor Robert Reichert says it's worth it.

For instance recent high school wrestling tournaments brought in nearly half a million dollars ($491,052) in economic impact in just one week.

An even bigger high school wrestling tournament a few weeks later generated an estimated $1.5 million boost, ($1,552,077) according to the Macon Bibb Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

Aeillo says upgraded facilities could mean more events, and much more money coming in.

"We see great opportunity here. We've got facilities all over the southeast and even all over the world and we see a great opportunity here with the location of Macon, how far it is, and how close it is to Atlanta to route shows down to here and the fact that there's really no competition around with arenas and the larger auditoriums that we have so there's only good things to come from the facilities and the future looks bright and fun".

There are no numbers available to show how much losing the basketball championships cost the area, but comparing what the wrestling tournaments generated county leaders say it's a big number.

David Aiello with Spectra says they are actively working to bring the state basketball championships back to Macon, and that the improvements will help with that along with even more events and fans.

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