I can somewhat understand your frustration at the Georgia High School Association’s decision to move the state basketball finals from Macon. After all, they did choose to do nothing once it was discovered the baskets were misaligned. And yes, the GHSA exects everything to center around football. They do a disservice to smaller schools yearly.
The cross country state finals fall during the final Friday of the regular season, making any attempt to honor team members as part of an overall fall Senior Recognition impossible. The state cheerleading finals and the first round of the state football playoffs collide. Another burden on small schools with cheerleaders who participate in football game squad as well as competition squad.
That being said, your editorial on the matter does miss something important. Macon officials knew the age of the Coliseum. It’s not as if the problems with parking, cell reception, etc. were new. I attended the 2013 state basketball finals. While I found the traffic to be no worse than the Columbus Civic Center afer the state cheerleding finals (more on that in a moment) it was bad. So shouldn’t some of the blame go to the city for, to borrow an expression, fiddling while the Coliseum aged?
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Now, if you’ll allow me, I would like to compare the Macon Coliseum to the Columbus Civic Center, longtime host of the GHSA Cheerleading Finals. This is not a comparission between sports per se. Rather, it’s a contrast between two mulit-sport state championships being hosted at a single indoor building. Parking at the Civic Center is relatively simple. Drive in, go either left or right, pay for parking, park and walk in. By the way, they don’t charge buses for parking because anyone with common sense would realize you don’t charge the athletes participating in your event to park at the event.
The traffic getting out is horrible for two reasons. 1. As the competition is divided into two sections based upon classes, there are thousands of cars trying to leave one session while thousands more are trying to get in. 2. City cops block off portions of the parking lot in an attempt to route traffic, making it difficult to get out. For those reasons, while I have been to Columbus the past 13 years, I’ve ridden with friends in recent years because I can’t handle the traffic.
But as the expression goes, it’s on the inside that counts. That’s where the Coliseum fails and the Civic Center wins. The Civic Center is clean and well maintained. Cell reception is good and there are even outlets scattered around the upper level for people who wish to sit on the floor and charge their phones. Concessions are overpriced (as you’d expect) but the individual kiosks are well run. More importantly, the PA system is loud and clear and I’ve never seen a facilities issue in my 13 years of attending.
The Civic Center has that going for it. More than enough in the eyes of the GHSA to ignore the bad neighborhood it’s in or the fact a majority of restaurants and hotels are a good 10-15 miles across town. Yes, Macon is centrally located. Interstate-16/75 make getting to restaurants and hotels much quicker. But what good does it do when the facility is left to rot?
Rather than complaining about the short-sighted nature of the GHSA’s decision and talk about how wonderful Macon is, why not use this as an opportunity to call for something that would make perfect sense? Rather than spend time and money on a study to bring yet another minor league team to Macon that has no guarantee of success and a high probablity of failure, put the effort into fixing the Coliseum. Make it attractive so the GHSA would want to bring the basketball finals back.
For that matter, what about trying to get the cheerleading finals back. Macon was the host in the ‘90s. I can say without question that there are people who would rather go to Macon than Columbus for the same reason you want the basketball finals back. Central location. Location though isn’t everything if your facilities aren’t up to date.
Dave Whitaker is a resident of Danville.