Efforts to keep the doors open at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon moved a step closer Thursday.
The Development Authority of Bibb County agreed to lease the museum from the state of Georgia and then sublease it to NewTown Macon.
Ben Sapp, executive director of the museum, and Emily Myers, a member of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Authority, “have worked out an arrangement with the state” for the lease and sublease, said the Development Authority’s attorney Chix Miller.
“The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame could stay here for two or three more years at least,” Miller said.
Recently negotiations with the state on the rent, which had been a sticking point, were successful, Sapp said. The state had been demanding the Halls of Fame Inc., an entity that would manage the museum, would have to pay rent for the 42,000-square-foot facility at the market rate of $10.19 per square foot or more than $400,000 per year.
However, “we negotiated the rent down to a reasonable level, down to less than one-third of what the state had originally asked for,” Sapp said.
The lease agreement states that the rent will be $130,030.65 a year.
Miller said NewTown Macon would make an annual payment to the authority and it would in turn make the monthly payments to the state.
The lease and sublease arrangement “will constitute only limited obligations” of the Development Authority and will not obligate Bibb County to levy or pledge any kind of taxation, according to the resolution.
Until recently, it had been the understanding that if the state entered into a lease agreement it would be with the Hall of Fame Inc., Sapp said. But because of bond debt still on the museum building that was issued for construction, the state is unable to lease the building to a private entity.
“For the past month, we have been scrambling to come up with a mechanism by which we could have an intergovernmental agreement that would satisfy the state,” he said.
The lease and sublease “have been approved in principle” by all the parties involved, he said.
The state has cut all funding for the Hall of Fame.
“As of July 1, we have received no funding from state appropriations,” Sapp said. “So for the last two months, we have been operating on a very, very thin margin. ... (The authority) is our last, best hope of making this work.”
Myers, the Georgia Hall of Fame Authority member, said during the meeting that the Development Authority’s involvement was essential.
“This is a very, very important decision to keep this hall today and we can move forward,” she said. “There is an opportunity, and the state is open to it ... for this building to be given to Macon.”
For this to happen, it would have to be approved by the state Legislature, she said. But the authority’s help “would help enormously ensuring the goodwill and the fact that Macon believes in this hall of fame and wants to keep it. We are going to work hard to have this building given to (Macon) over the next couple of years.”
In another matter, Kathy Bowden, the authority’s former executive director, was recognized for her service. She was given a clock with a personalized, engraved message for her more than 10 years with the authority.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.