When the Macon Braves picked up and moved out of outdated Luther Williams Field 13 years ago, it was a tremendous loss for the city of Macon and Middle Georgia. We didn’t just lose a baseball team; we lost a Braves baseball team.
How awful was that?
It’s unfortunate the previous two mayors of the city of Macon didn’t care about baseball and didn’t believe the Braves would leave. The stupidity shown in their apathy dearly cost an area that needed every quality of life entertainment option possible. And no offense to the people of Floyd County, but to know we lost that Braves team to Rome is still embarrassing.
Now Macon-Bibb mayor Robert Reichert wants to spend $50,000 on a feasibility study about bringing baseball back to Macon. Reichert wants a new stadium near the old cotton mill downtown. If that is the preference, the feasibility study will be a huge waste of money.
Sure, I’d love a baseball team back in the area, and I commend the effort. But it won’t work in downtown Macon. Just like Rome has to count on the surrounding counties to make it work up there, a new team here would have to be supported by more than just one county.
Whether Macon-Bibb likes it or not, any project trying to attract a new baseball team will only work if Warner Robins is involved. This area is split between two counties with an almost-equal population. And something like a baseball team would have to be supported by the people of Houston County.
Residents of Houston County are not going to drive all the way downtown Macon to watch baseball on a regular basis, and the repeatability of fan attendance is crucial to a minor league baseball team’s success. Fans might come once a year, but you need them to go more regularly.
It’s not just that some people from outside of Macon will still feel (incorrectly) that downtown is not safe. It’s the distance. Why would people who live in the heart of Warner Robins consistently drive 25 to 30 miles to see a team that likely will not be a Braves affiliate? They won’t, especially if it’s on the east end of Macon -- far away from the population in north Macon and in Houston County.
A baseball team in this area can’t survive without the people south of Macon-Bibb.
Could the two governments work together? Is that possible? There has been a movement in Warner Robins to get a baseball team there. They likely need the people of Macon-Bibb to make that work. Is it illogical to believe that two cities, two counties could come together for the greater good to get a baseball team for the entire area?
Macon-Bibb should instead spend that $50,000 on cleaning up downtown. It’s amazing when I ride over the bridges downtown how much filth is accumulated. What impression do people get when they travel through Macon on the interstates and see stuff piled up on the side of the road? Couldn’t it be a more positive impression if this was the cleanest city in the state? Instead, there are uncut trees and shrubs and just plain trash on the bridges and shoulders of the main thoroughfares.
Macon recently was listed by a website as the worst city to live in America. Well, I like it here. This is now my home. But if people have heard that and then ride through Macon and see the trash on the streets, they might think that moniker is actually warranted.
Yes, we need baseball in Middle Georgia. But I can tell you what this expensive feasibility study likely will say. It will contend any team in Macon-Bibb will need the population of Warner Robins and Houston County, just like they would need the people of Macon and Bibb County. Until those two entities can come together, everything else is a waste of time and money.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.