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In a unanimous decision by the Macon-Bibb Commission, minor league hockey is on its way back to Macon. Former team Augusta Riverhawks, of Augusta, now renamed Macon Mayhem, recently moved to Macon and will be playing at the Macon Centreplex.
Bob Kerzner, co-owner of the team with his wife Dianne Kerzner, said in the press conference, “I told my wife it’d be stupid not to go to Macon. It’s more than a business venture; it’s a passion.” Both owners were excited about the unanimous decision, as they have had to fold three other teams before finding Macon.
“We don’t want to be the kind of people who wonder what happened,” said Kerzner. “We’re going to try to make things happen. Just because what happened in the past happened in the past, we have to understand the convention center wasn’t here back then, this beautiful hotel wasn’t there back then.”
However, the Macon Mayhem is not Macon’s first minor league hockey team. In the 1973-’74 season, the city was home to the Macon Whoopees. Hockey then returned to Macon 20 years later, from 1996-2002, with the Macon Whoopee, followed by the Macon Trax from 2002-2005.
Mayor Robert Reichert is excited about the idea of the icy sport. “It’s something that’s new, novel, to us. We’re not used to ice skating or hockey. But it’s a great game and it's attracted a lot of enthusiasm… I think you’ll find families coming from all over middle Georgia to enjoy ice hockey.”
The former Riverhawks are part of the Southern Professional Hockey League, which was started in 2004 and has expanded to include nine active teams, including the Columbus Cottonmouths. Established in 2010, the team has not played a game since February 2013 due to leaky pipes in the James Brown Arena that they once called home. The contract that brought the team here will keep them in Macon for about five years, with their season starting sometime next fall.
Kevin Dowdell, director of sales and marketing for the Centreplex and Marriott, said that the incoming hockey team is expected to bring a million dollars a year into the local economy. “[The customers] hit downtown, they have dinner, they’re going to check into a hotel, not just Marriott, so this is the economic impact I was looking for… [inlinetweet prefix=""" tweeter="mercercluster" suffix=""]The time is now. The Macon of ten years ago is not the Macon of today.[/inlinetweet]”
However, Dowdell says that, if the people want this sport to remain sustainable in this area, Warner Robins will also have to get on board to provide additional support.
“I think it’s going to be great,” said Reichert. “It’s unique. [inlinetweet prefix="Macon Mayor Reichert:" tweeter="mercercluster" suffix=""]Where else in this area can you go and watch professional ice hockey?”[/inlinetweet]
The exhibition game for the team is scheduled for September 2015, with the first official game of the season scheduled for October 2015.
Macon joins eight other teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League:
- Pensacola (FL) Ice Flyers
- Columbus (GA) Cottonmouths
- Fayetteville (NC) FireAntz
- Huntsville (AL) Havoc
- Knoxville (TN) Ice Bears
- Mississippi RiverKings
- Louisiana IceGators
- Peoria (IL) Riverme
For more information on the new Macon franchise, check out the Mayhem’s Facebook page at facebook.com/MaconMayhemHockey.