Sports Hall of Fame wants to buy its building from state

mlee@macon.comFebruary 4, 2013 

ATLANTA -- The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is exploring a deal to buy the building it uses in downtown Macon, a transaction that could start as early as this year and make the museum self-sustaining.

“We’re looking at (whether) it makes sense to keep renting or to buy,” said state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, whose district includes the downtown Cherry Street building.

Right now, Georgia owns the building and the Sports Hall of Fame is paid up on its $132,000 annual rent through December 2013. The state sold bonds to finance the $8.3 million building and exhibits, and according to Beverly, those bonds will be paid off within two years.

Each year, the state Legislature formally authorizes the sale of selected Georgia buildings. Usually, all the properties are listed in a single bill that passes without dissent. Last year, the state sold the old Georgia Music Hall of Fame building to Mercer University for a price eventually set at $180,000.

There’s a “strong possibility” the Sports Hall of Fame could be in this year’s bill, Beverly said.

The museum is simply laying the groundwork for a possible deal, cautioned Paul Holmes, chairman of the GSHF Authority.

The Development Authority of Bibb County leases the museum, and downtown advocacy group NewTown Macon manages it on their behalf. If the building is to be sold, it’s not yet decided which would be the actual buyer.

But if there’s no interest in a sale, the lease could continue through 2014, said Mike Ford, NewTown’s president and CEO.

He and other museum stakeholders visited Atlanta last week to brief Bibb County’s state legislators on the sale idea.

“I think the delegation (of Bibb legislators) is pretty united that we’d like to see some type of relief so they can be economically sound,” said state Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon.

If the museum’s rent bill stays where it is, Peake said, it’s possible the museum “wouldn’t make it.”

The museum folks are eyeing the sale price that Mercer paid for the music hall.

If the price is right, said Holmes, the sports museum would be self-sustaining.

No price would be set until after the Legislature authorizes a sale, which would happen probably no later than April.

After that happens, the Georgia Building Authority commissions an appraisal, which could take six to eight weeks.

The museum moved to its 43,000-square-foot location in 1999 with state funding. In 2009, the Legislature voted to end that subsidy. Since then, Macon and Bibb have both kicked in cash.

For the year ending this June, each has appropriated $75,000, and on top of that, the museum received some $130,000 as its share of the Macon and Bibb hotel-motel taxes.

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