Legislation signed into law this week means the Georgia sports and music halls of fame could have new homes in the future, unless an alternative financial arrangement is put into place.
Gov. Sonny Perdue signed Senate Bill 523 into law Monday, which requires the authorities for both museums to issue requests for proposals by the end of September that will either relocate one or both halls to a new location, or seek new ownership, management and operating plans in Macon.
The requests for funding, or RFPs, will be sent to every city and county government in Georgia. Those government bodies will then have until the end of December to issue a response.
So far, only Atlanta seems a possible destination for a relocation. In the past, Fulton County Commissioner Rob Pitts has publicly advocated moving the music hall to Atlanta, where attendance could be higher.
Ben Sapp, interim director for the sports hall, said the bill also requires his museum to have a new authority appointed, so there’s little he can do until that happens.
“Once that happens, then we can sit down and work on the RFP,” he said. “The only real direction the bill gives us is that every county and municipal government will receive one.”
Lisa Love, executive director of the music hall, said the state is trying to raise funding for the museums, which have been losing money since each opened in the 1990s.
“I think it is an effort to inject transparency and an objective process into a difficult challenge, which is how to make the halls of fame self-operating,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Telegraph. “The bill opens the door to counties and municipal authorities, including Macon and Bibb County, to submit proposals formalizing commitments and demonstrating how their plan would lead to the authority achieving self-sustainability.”
During this year’s legislative session, the Macon delegation got additional funding for the museums, as well as the Douglass Theatre, through an increase in the hotel-motel tax. Meanwhile, the Bibb County Commission and NewTown Macon have both expressed an interest in recent months in working with the state to operate the museums.
Sapp and Love both said certain issues need to be worked out, such as defining the mission for each museum should new ownership take over for the state.
“While the bill is motivated by fiscal reality, it’s critical that the primary goal focus on how we can most efficiently and respectfully document and commemorate the achievements of Georgia’s musicians, and how we continue to position this cultural asset as a sense of identity and civic pride for the entire state,” Love stated in the e-mail.
“It’s a tricky situation,” Sapp said. “For 10 years, we’ve been governed by and gotten our funding from the state. If (another) entity comes in and operates us, does that change the nature of who we are? There are a lot of questions there, a lot of gray area at the moment.”
The museums’ authorities will have until April 30, 2011, to study the proposals and submit a report to the state.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.