Fans, coaches and administrators have expressed a desire to not have the GHSA Tournament championship games at the Macon Coliseum, and that was before the issues with the goals at the latest tournament. Those same people regularly throw out all sorts of facilities and wonder why the GHSA just doesn't move the games there.
But there are issues.
Size: At almost any time, there are at least 4,000 people in the building, between the arena, concourse and the lobby as fans wait for a game to finish. Many will stand in the arena or take a distant seat and watch the end of a game and wait to take a seat with fans of a certain team. Few buildings can handle that many people in it at one time while games are going on. College facilities, which outside of Georgia Tech and Georgia, tend to seat about 5,000 or less and aren't constructed for larger events.
Parking: Few of the college venues have sufficient parking, except perhaps if school isn't in session. The Coliseum lot reportedly has 2,300 spaces. Also, some venues that hosted the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds charged for parking, as does the Coliseum. But that is mandated by Macon-Bibb County as standard operating procedure, and the GHSA gets no income from that (or concessions, also handled by an outside party).
Staffing: The availability of workers at college locations would be a consideration. Bigger facilities have more full-time workers and contract workers ready for events. College coaches are also reluctant, around conference tournament time, to give up the ability to practice in their main arena, since that's the kind of facility -- or bigger -- that will host a conference tournament.
Scheduling: The bigger facilities make sure to keep the calendar full with all sorts of events that are substantially more profitable than a high school basketball tournament. A facility needs more than a day to prepare it for any event, so it can't simply go from a concert on Wednesday to high school basketball on Thursday, unless it was financially rewarding. And that would only happen if the GHSA increased prices.
Here's a look at the facilities most suggested, with the pros and cons.
THE MAIN CANDIDATES
Infinite Energy Center, Duluth
Basketball seating: 12,750.
Age: 13 years old.
The facility is about 13 miles from the 75/85 split and about 100 miles from Macon. It cost $91.5 million. It is home to the Atlanta Gladiators hockey team and Georgia Swarm lacrosse team.
It has also hosted one of the GHSA's wrestling tournaments for more than a decade, a snowstorm in 2014 interrupting that run. A year ago during the tournament schedule, it hosted a technology workshop Thursday and the Gladiatiors on Saturday. This year, it hosted The Log & Timber Home show Friday and Saturday and the Atlanta Gladiators on Sunday. It does have gaps of three and four days in March, but none are connected to a weekend.
For about a decade, it hosted the Class AAAAAA and AAAAA finals. The arena was never anywhere near full, but GHSA executive director Gary Phillips said there were no complaints about attendance or the facility. The cost would also be at least four times as much as the Coliseum. And travel logistics are notable.
McCamish Pavilion, Georgia Tech
Basketball seating: 8,600.
Age: 4 years old.
The insides of old Alexander Memorial Coliseum are very new and have about 600 fewer seats, albeit much better seats to see a basketball game. Almost as new is the softball complex 50 yards away that ate up parking spots. The Zelnak Center practice facility is young and consumed parking upon its completion. There are about 100 parking spots connected to McCamish, and the closest lot is across I-75.
Georgia Tech's campus parking is managed by a third party, and students and staff pay, so they have priority. Phillips said no parking is available during the week until 7 p.m., so no high school game could start before 7:30 p.m. if any fans wanted to park on campus. Otherwise, it's a long walk either through campus or not the safest part of Atlanta.
Basketball seating: 18,118.
Age: 16 years old.
Scheduling and costs are the two main issues. Philips is a huge facility, with accompanying larger costs. Phillips wasn't sure of the exact cost but noted it's more than four or five times the rate paid at the Coliseum.
The week of this year's tournament, Philips had a Janet Jackson concert scheduled for Thursday (it was postponed to August) and the Reinhard Bonnke Gospel Crusade on Saturday and Sunday. A year ago, it had the Atlanta Hawks on Friday and Harlem Globetrotters on Saturday. In 2016 so far, it has had only two periods, according to its website, where nothing was scheduled for a three-day span, and both were in January.
The future of the building is hazy. In the past year, there has been discussion of the Hawks moving, as well as undergoing renovations of more than $100 million for a facility that cost $213 million.
Renting Philips for three days would be expensive. Parking is spread out, most off-site, with costs ranging from $8 to $15 and more.
Stegeman Coliseum, Athens
Basketball seating: 10,523.
Age: 52 years old.
The place known often as Stegosaurus has undergone a huge facelift that has made it much more pleasing to the eye. There have been assorted other renovations to make life better for fans, coaches and student-athletes.
Parking nearby would be sufficient, with an adjacent deck and other lots that would make for a tolerable walk through campus, but a home baseball game would impact parking availability.
On the other hand, getting there isn't all that smooth. Athens is about 30 miles from I-20 and roughly 25 from I-85.
OTHER FACILITIES OF NOTE
Albany Civic Center
Basketball seating: 8,436
It certainly has history, having hosted the SEC women's tournament from 1987-92 and assorted other basketball events. The GHSA has also been a customer in the building, which was completed in the late 1970s. The location, about two hours southwest of Macon and 35 miles off I-75, dooms it with the metro Atlanta contingent.
Alumni Arena, Armstrong State, Savannah
Basketball seating: 4,000.
Barely 20 years old, the arena lacks the size and location for finals consideration.
Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center
Basketball seating: 7,255.
The arena, built in 1980, had ice issues in 2013, which inevitably led to the RiverHawks hockey team becoming the Macon Mayhem. Not much basketball has been played there recently. Augusta State played a game in 2012 because of fall graduation at Christenberry Fieldhouse. Support began to grow last year to replace the complex with a new one, estimated to cost between $90-110 million and also located downtown.
Centennial Center, Georgia College
Basketball seating: 4,071.
It has hosted quarterfinal and semifinal action recently with little problem, and was the longtime home to the GISA Final Four. Parking was problematic for both events. The building was completed in 1989 and has a roomier concourse than many of its Division II college brethren in the state. But the building is nearly 40 minutes from Interstate 75, and fans would have to go through a high-traffic part of east Macon.
Christenberry Fieldhouse, Augusta
Basketball seating: 3,026.
The home to the Division II program is too small and located about three miles from the South Carolina border.
Hawkins Arena, Mercer
Basketball seating: 3,200.
It's a good fit for the GISA Final Four but is only a little more than a third the size of the Coliseum. Parking would be an issue, too.
Health and Physical Education Complex, Fort Valley
Basketball seating: 5,053
It's fairly young and has served well for the quarterfinal and semifinal round. Parking -- quality and number -- is an issue, as well as capacity. Completed in 2004, it's about 20 minutes off of I-75.
A THIRD GROUP
Athletic Fieldhouse, Valdosta State
Basketball seating: 5,350.
The capacity is respectable, and it has hosted earlier rounds of the tournament, but the location more than two hours south of Macon eliminates it from consideration by the metro Atlanta faction.
Columbus Civic Center
Basketball seating: 7,671.
Home to the Columbus Cottonmouths hockey team and Columbus Lions arena football team, the Civic Center is borderline big enough seating-wise. The 20-year-old building sits surrounded by parking, much like the Coliseum and with perhaps more spots, near a football stadium and the softball complex. But basketball at the arena, which is also about 500 feet from the Alabama state line, is fairly rare.
Forbes Arena, Morehouse, Atlanta
Basketball seating: 6,000.
It hosted basketball prelims in the 1996 Olympics, opening that year at a cost of $8 million. But it is in a congested area, and sufficient parking is almost non-existent.
Frank G. Lumpkin Center, Columbus State
Basketball seating: 4,500.
It has been the home to quarterfinals and semifinals in recent years and is a good fit. It's not fancy, and front rows are almost as far from the court as the Coliseum. But it's also half the size of the Coliseum for basketball and is in a remote location at one side of the state, about 100 miles from Macon.
Georgia State Sports Arena
Basketball seating: 3,455.
It's on an upper floor of a building, and parking is not overly extensive or convenient on a downtown campus. And seating for a school of 40,000 students is less than many of the state's Division II programs (including Georgia College and Fort Valley State).
Hanner Fieldhouse, Georgia Southern
Basketball seating: 4,325.
Hanner gives the Eagles a rowdy home advantage, but it's nearly 50 years old and doesn't have a favorable location.
Kennesaw State Convocation Center
Basketball seating: 4,792.
The facility overall is good, and it's attached to a parking deck. But the size is insufficient for the finals.
Rome Forum Civic Center
Basketball seating: 3,100 (approximately).
Also a site for early games in the past, the location is extreme -- about 27 miles off of I-75 and only a little closer to Atlanta than Chattanooga, and the facility is challenged by size.
Savannah Civic Center
Basketball seating: 9,600.
The arena is six years younger than the Coliseum and is as multi-purpose, but it battles the same fiscal issues with local government. The size is clearly adequate, but being located so far from the middle and north part of the state is an issue. Certainly it's too far from Atlanta.
The Coliseum, West Georgia, Carrollton
Basketball seating: 6,500.
It's almost big enough, but the location is a negative, being less than 15 miles from the Alabama state line.
Tiger Arena, Savannah State
Basketball seating: 6,000.
It's less than 20 years old, almost has enough seating, but is in a corner of the state.
Notable: Arenas at Georgia Southwestern, North Georgia, Clayton State, Shorter and Clark Atlanta -- all Division II basketball programs -- seat less than 2,500.