On Tuesday, September 22, Macon-Bibb got a little closer to having minor league baseball in Central Georgia once again when the Board of Commissioners’ Operations and Finance Committee voted 3-2 to push forward a resolution which would allocate $50,000 to develop a market analysis and economic feasibility study. The next step is that the measure will now go before the full nine-member Macon-Bibb County Commission on October 6. In that 3-2 vote District 3 commissioner Elaine Lucas and District 8 commissioner Virgil Watkins had voted against the measure while Gary Bechtel (District 1), Scotty Shepherd (District 7) and Larry Schlesinger (District 2) supported the resolution.
Commissioner Elaine Lucas explained to Central Georgia’s largest television station, WMAZ-TV that the $50,000 could be better spent elsewhere. She says she’d rather use county resources already in place to determine whether a team would be successful here, instead of spending more money. Lucas says, “I’m for athletics, but I don’t think we need to hire somebody and pay them $50,000 to tell us whether we can afford or whether we can have baseball in Macon, Georgia.”
“I know it’s coming from special funds generated in this area, but is this a wise use of money when we have people screaming for other things?” Lucas asked.
Is baseball feasible in Macon? The Macon Braves were a class-A minor league baseball team associated with the Atlanta Braves. The team was in town from 1991 to 2002. Former Macon mayor Jack Ellis said he tried to keep the Macon Braves from leaving when he was in office and offered to make major renovations at Luther Williams Field which was first built in 1929, but Rome, Georgia at the time were in the process of securing funding for a $15 million dollar stadium. Subsequently, the Macon Braves left in 2003. After losing the Macon Braves, Macon was home to an Independent professional team, the Macon Music in the South Coast League, for one season (2007) as well as a different independent league baseball team known as the Macon Pinetoppers (2010) that called Luther Williams Field “home”.
However, over the last year, there has been renewed interest by Macon-Bibb mayor Robert Reichert to bring baseball back along with plans for a new stadium.
If approved next month, the $50,000 would come from bond funds that are part of the tax allocation district around the former Bibb Mill site. The old cotton mill is the location of a tentative development that Mayor Robert Reichert unveiled plans for in 2014. Those plans call for surrounding a new baseball stadium with restaurants, small hotels and a parking deck.