There is no doubt that many of us in Middle Georgia miss minor league baseball and would welcome its return. Macon was home to several minor league teams for many decades and many Major League Baseball stars came through Luther Williams Field. Our last team, the Macon Braves, suffered through declining attendance for years, and due to the physical neglect of the venue by the city of Macon and multiple other reasons, the Braves opted for new digs in Rome.
With talk now of building a “new” stadium in Warner Robins/ Houston County, we should carefully consider the best location that would benefit the consolidated Macon/Warner Robins/Fort Valley metro area (seven counties with a population of almost 400,000) and even the entire Middle Georgia region of over 40 counties. Kudos to Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen for consulting with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission on this matter. This initiative should be a venture not just for Warner Robins, but for Macon and for all of Middle Georgia as well.
Perhaps a consortium of several cities and counties would be the best vehicle to find the “right” location and build the “best” stadium that would appeal to a MLB operation for a Single A ball team. We do not have the population base for a Double AA franchise.
If Luther Williams Field is not the best option (and probably not for various reasons), then a site on the I-75 corridor between Macon and Warner Robins could fit the bill. We all know full well about the population boom in Houston County in the last 20 years. But then we would probably have to consider Milledgeville and Dublin and their environs, so I-16 at GA 96 comes into the picture, as could other locations.
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Whatever the “right” location turns out to be, we must not have tunnel vision and think of only what benefits Macon, or Warner Robins. We should think of our two communities as sister-cities, and along with the seven counties and the Middle Georgia region, as being one market. That’s what any MLB franchise will be looking for in a Single A site; a fan base of at least 400,000 -- 500,000 people.
Just to cite one example of not working together. Years ago the city of Macon made the very unfortunate mistake of remodeling the terminal, parking lot, etc. at Middle Georgia Regional Airport. Millions of dollars were needlessly spent (even though there were federal monies included). Most taxpayers knew the airport’s future could only rely on one FBO for private and corporate customers, maintenance operations, cargo facilities, industrial aerospace firms, etc. (as Macon Mayor Robert Reichert has proposed).
A “true” Middle Georgia Regional Airport with a modern terminal for passenger service should have included Warner Robins, Milledgeville, Dublin and surrounding counties as co-owners, and should have been built in a more suitable site that would have benefited all of Middle Georgia.
Now that we will have a consolidated Macon-Bibb County government, let’s learn from the past and work together with all of our neighbors to bring minor league baseball back to Middle Georgia. It can be done.
Spyros N. Dermatas is a resident of Macon.