Report: Macon might lose GHSA basketball finals to Georgia, Georgia Tech

At the GHSA’s executive committee meeting at the Marriott City Center a month ago, executive director Gary Phillips said there was no timetable on determining the location of the 2016-17 state basketball finals.

The 2015-16 tournament at the Macon Coliseum was a public relations disaster because of goals placed a foot farther from the court than they should have been and because of the GHSA’s reaction to when it was told about the issue.

He said after that April 18 meeting that the association was very interested in who would replace the Noble Investment Group as the management group for the Macon Centreplex, which encompasses the Coliseum and City Auditorium.

But a report Friday night on the Marietta Daily Journal’s website states that the GHSA had already contacted Georgia, the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth and Georgia Tech not long after the end of the tournament, and the result, the paper stated, is that the 2016-17 tournament finals will be split between two sites, with Georgia and Georgia Tech the likely hosts.

According to the Daily Journal, Georgia was contacted in a March 12 email, with a follow-up from associate commissioner Ernie Yarbrough.

A May 10 email from Georgia assistant athletics director for marketing John Bateman confirmed the university’s interest, according to the Daily Journal story.

When asked by a Telegraph reporter about the situation involving the GHSA, Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity would neither confirm nor deny the report.

“GHSA would make any announcements if appropriate,” McGarity wrote in an email.

The GHSA also contacted the Infinite Energy Center on March 17, and that Yarbrough wrote that “in light of some of the recent problems we have encountered in Macon, we are being compelled to secure another venue moving forward.”

Georgia Tech was also contacted and expressed interest.

The addition of a seventh classification in 2015 led the GHSA to expand the tournament to four days instead of three, increasing the consideration of multiple sites.

The Daily Journal obtained the information through open records requests.

Phillips had no comment in an email to the Daily Journal.

“Any change of venue is not finalized,” he said. “Therefore we are not prepared to comment at this time. Any statement would be premature.”

Phillips said more than once in the days after the tournament that Georgia had basically shown no interest in hosting the tournament and that the third-party parking management situation at Georgia Tech all but eliminated McCamish Pavilion from consideration. Georgia Tech’s on-campus parking is managed by an outside firm, and students have priority parking until the evening on weeknights.

Georgia Tech associate athletics director for facilities David Grice confirmed available dates for the finals in a May 10 email, noting, “The next piece of the puzzle is a discussion with parking services. … Once we have that discussion, my hope is that we can finalize an agreement.”

The Daily Journal reported finals dates of March 8-9 for Georgia and March 10-11 for Georgia Tech. The media outlet also reported that a source said Coliseum officials had not been contacted by the GHSA about moving, and that an announcement was expected around Memorial Day or in early June.

Chris Floore, the assistant to the county manager for public affairs in Macon-Bibb County, confirmed to The Telegraph that no notification has been provided.

“Made a few calls,” Floore wrote in a text message. “As far as I can tell, we have not yet received any notification from management at the Centreplex of any changes. We were certainly aware of the issues during the tournament, as well as others expressed by several local organizations and events.

“Management of those facilities was put out for bid a couple of weeks prior to the tournament in response to the concerns we’d received.”

County commissioners approved a bid by facility management company Spectra to take over management of the Centreplex at its Tuesday meeting.

There has been a discrepancy as to when the GHSA was alerted to the misplaced goals. Phillips has said the news came during the final night, with all but 21/2 games complete, while Allatoona head coach Markus Hood has claimed to have brought it to the association’s attention about halfway through the tournament.

Another issue that emerged was that some team buses were charged to enter the Coliseum, as was some working media, until the GHSA intervened.

There have been ongoing issues with the facility’s concessions stands and restrooms not being updated or upgraded.

Some portion of the state basketball tournament has been held in Macon for much of the past century, including the City Auditorium. Records indicate at least one state final has been played in Macon every year since 1949, with several state finals taking place in the city prior to that. The Coliseum has hosted at least a portion of the state finals every year since opening in 1968.

Telegraph writers Jason Butt and Laura Corley contributed to this report.

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