Sports Hall of Fame has more cutbacks

The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame will shut down Sundays and Mondays and will eliminate some staff positions beginning July 1 as part of budget cuts, hall of fame officials said Wednesday.

Executive Director Jackie Decell said the moves coincide with state budget cuts that hit the hall earlier this year. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Decell said the museum already had to cut 25 percent of its June budget because of shortfalls in state revenue. She said she was informed that the state’s funding will now come to the sports hall on a monthly basis.

“There are also hiring suspensions and travel moratoriums,” she said.

The hall will be losing two full-time positions and all four part-time positions, Decell said, leaving five full-time employees.

Bobby Pope, chairman of the hall’s authority, said the funding issues for the museum have become severe.

“We’re facing some real difficult times,” he said. “We can hardly stand any more cutbacks. The state has cut us to the bone. We’re facing very critical times, but we’re not closing down. We have to figure out a way to generate new revenue.”

State legislators cut the budgets of the sports museum and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame for the upcoming fiscal year, with the sports hall receiving about $512,000 from the state and the music hall getting $586,000. A measure to use money from the county’s hotel/motel tax to give additional funding to both museums failed when members of the local legislative delegation failed to agree on a proposal.

State Rep. Allen Peake, one of the supporters of using the hotel/motel tax to fund the halls in March, said Wednesday that the effects of not passing that bill are now being felt.

“I hate that,” Peake said of the cuts. “That’s what we warned was going to come when we had the opportunity to use the hotel/motel tax for funding (and didn’t pass it).”

Peake said the state House leadership has told him he should expect to be called back to the Capitol in September for a special session about more cuts to the state budget. If that happens, he said, both halls will be among the targets.

“I’m getting every indication to be prepared to go back,” he said. “I can guarantee you the halls of fame will be a direct target. That’s why we needed that hotel/motel tax.”

The sports hall’s authority will hold a public meeting today at 10 a.m. at the museum. In addition to the financial issues, the authority also is scheduled to discuss proposed changes in the selection criteria for inductees.

“We’ve got a great shrine,” Pope said. “We need to keep it going.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.