Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

2024 Preview Part 2 – Elections, bus tracking, amphitheater, sports marketing, downtown health club

The Macon Newsroom compiled 20 things to look for in 2024 in a 4-part series that will be published between Dec. 21 and Jan. 2
Liz Fabian
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, right, visits with Macon-Bibb County Elections Supervisor Tom Gillon during an October tour of the new Board of Elections office at Macon Mall.

The coming year brings a return of political advertisements in the Presidential Election year, Macon-Bibb County’s new amphitheater and Macon Mall offices, increased sports tournaments, reopening of the downtown Health Club, bus tracker apps and Wi-Fi for the Macon Transit Authority.

6. Macon-Bibb elections for mayor, sheriff, open Commission seats

Political commercials are expected to dominate the airwaves in 2024 with presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns, Georgia General Assembly races and a host of major Macon-Bibb County positions, including four term-limited commission seats that will be up for grabs. 

The election season kicks off with the March 12 Presidential Preference Primary, and the partisan and nonpartisan primaries for local, state and federal offices on May 21.

Macon-Bibb County’s races for mayor, commissioners, board of education, judges, coroner and Macon Water Authority are all non-partisan. Those contests will be decided in May or through a run-off June 18.

Mayor Lester Miller announced his re-election campaign 11 months ago and expected to draw challengers.   

While the full slate of candidates won’t be known until five days of qualifying ends at noon on March 8, there will be at least four new faces on the Macon-Bibb County Commission. 

Commissioners Elaine Lucas, Al Tillman, Virgil Watkins and Mallory Jones are term-limited and not eligible to run for re-election on the nine-member Commission. 

Several local and state races are partisan elections, including Bibb County’s sheriff and district attorney. 

Incumbent Sheriff David Davis already has publicly announced opponents entering the ring for the May 21 primary and possible run-off June 18. 

If there are qualifying candidates from both parties in those partisan races, the victor will be declared at the conclusion of the Nov. 5 Presidential Election or potential run-off Dec. 3.

There will be at least two Bibb County precinct location changes for 2024. The Hazzard 4 precinct is moving from New Heights Baptist on Lamar Road to Tabernacle Baptist Church at 6611 Zebulon Road. The Board of Elections is also finalizing an alternative location for the Howard 4 Precinct at the Theron Ussery North Macon Park, which was not available for all the scheduled election dates.

The Board of Elections also will be dealing with running its first election and early voting out of its new office in the Macon Mall. No campaigning will be allowed within 150 feet of the 1.08 million-square-foot building. – Liz Fabian

7. Macon Transit Authority launches bus tracker mobile app, Wi-Fi on buses

A Macon Transit Authority bus makes its way through Mercer Village.

The Macon Transit Authority plans to roll out technology that allows passengers to check the location and estimated arrival time for buses using their mobile phones – it also will add a Wi-Fi hotspot to all regular routes.

The bus tracking technology was made available in September to riders of paratransit buses, which are smaller vehicles that transport people with disabilities. 

Though the authority planned to launch the technology for fixed routes in December, MTA CEO Craig Ross said “employee issues” have resulted in delays.

“We will most likely roll out Fixed Route some time in January,” Ross said in late November. 

MTA purchased the ride-tracking technology from TripSpark Technologies with a $1.3 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. – Laura Corley

8. Amphitheater, more county offices opening at Macon Mall

The new Macon-Bibb County amphitheater at Macon Mall is scheduled to open in March of 2024.

While the official opening act for Macon’s new amphitheater has yet to be announced, Piedmont Construction is scheduled to hand over the 12,000-person capacity facility to Macon-Bibb County on March 7.

Concerts are already on the books March 24 with Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ-Top, April 4 with Riley Green and Tracy Lawrence, April 13 brings Anthony Hill, Johnny Gill and Leela James, and Macon native Jason Aldean preforms on Oct. 5.

“There’s about 27 more to announce. There’s going to be something for every genre. Don’t worry if you don’t like country music, if you don’t like the rock so far, there’s going to be something for everyone,” Mayor Lester Miller said during November’s Ask Mayor Miller program. 

The beginning of 2024 also will bring the final finishing touches to new office spaces being built on the other side of Macon Mall near the old Sears location. 

This past summer, the Board of Elections opened and Courthouse Annex and its two courtrooms were completed. 

Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission Executive Director Jeff Ruggieri said he expects to move from Terminal Station in mid-March at the earliest. 

The renovated stores also will house SAFEbuilt’s building services, the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, and a library branch.  

Jennifer Lautzenheiser, director of Middle Georgia Regional Libraries, said she expects the new library to open in the spring. That branch replaces the Thomaston Road location, which was the county’s most expensive branch to operate and was under-utilized before it closed in recent years. 

The coming year could also see new commercial development along the Eisenhower Corridor where the Urban Development Authority now controls most of the old Kroger shopping center across from the mall. 

The Bibb County Board of Education also will contract with Warren Associates to serve as construction manager for renovations at the old Butler Collision Center at 2122 Eisenhower Parkway. The building will be used to expand the school system’s Career, Technical and Agriculture Education program, or CTAE. – Liz Fabian

9. Macon Health Club could reopen under new ownership

The old Macon Health Club at Cherry and First streets downtown. (Grant Blankenship | Georgia Public Broadcasting)

The long-vacant Macon Health Club downtown at First and Cherry Streets could come back into operation under the new ownership of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.

The UDA acquired the building, and two others adjacent to it, in mid-November by way of a property exchange agreement with its former owner, the Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority, and the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority. 

In exchange for the buildings at First and Cherry streets, the UDA and Industrial Authority deeded several properties between Pine and Plum Streets to the Hospital Authority.

The Hospital Authority has been mum on its plans for the half-block of newly acquired properties across First Street from its main digs. 

At a news conference in November, Mayor Lester Miller mentioned vague plans for a new hotel, apartments and restaurant by the health club.

The county is “going to make sure that the Health Club returns to downtown Macon, that everyone can enjoy and have the opportunity to use (it),” Miller said. “We’re also gonna make sure that we have a new hotel nearby. Our hope is to have a new hotel in the very near future … along with some good housing that we all need.” – Laura Corley

10. Sports marketing for playing, staying and paying in Macon

Macon-Bibb County held a soft opening for its Rhythm and Rally pickleball facility at Macon Mall in November.

Macon Mall’s new Rhythm and Rally may be the world’s largest indoor pickleball facility, but Macon-Bibb County wants tourists to realize it’s not the only game in town. 

The city’s first pickleball Candy Cane Classic drew about 600 participants and larger tournaments are already on the books for 2024, but Visit Macon also is actively recruiting other sports tournaments to town in the coming year. 

Before taking office, Mayor Lester Miller said his transition team made it clear that recreation and tourism are priorities to grow the community.

Over the past three years, his administration has been developing a sports tourism strategy, he said.

“Sports and recreation are ties that bind us together. They help us get healthier physically and mentally, and they push us to a better version of ourselves,” Miller said during a Dec. 15 news conference at the renovated baseball and softball fields at Carolyn Crayton Park. 

The county plans to relaunch the community softball recreation league and hopes to recruit a major tournament akin to the old Flag City Shootout that drew teams from all over the Southeast in years past. 

“We’re going to bring several hundred teams that will stay nights and nights enjoying some wonderful softball here,” Miller said. 

The mayor pointed out that Macon is one of the top tennis destinations in the Southeast due to the Macon Area Tennis Association. 

Macon Tracks’ first half-marathon in 20 years drew about 600 runners to the city.

Hockey and Mercer football also draw visitors, Miller said. 

Visit Macon CEO Gary Wheat said it was one of his first goals to bring GHSA Basketball back to Macon. Not only did the tournament return in 2018, but Macon now hosts high school wrestling, cheer and dance.

Miller hinted that building a multi-court basketball facility could be on the SPLOST wish list that will be coming together in 2024. 

Two years ago, Visit Macon commissioned a sports marketing study that shows building new facilities can be a good investment. 

“Sports are recession-proof, which means people are always going to travel to watch their kids play, watch their family play,” Wheat said. “And that means tourism dollars for our community.”

In 2017 when Wheat first arrived in Macon, sports tourism contributed $3 million to the local economy. In 2023, that figure was $14 million, Wheat said. 

Miller ended the news conference saying, “Macon-Bibb County is back. We’re tired of playing games and traveling everywhere else to these nice events.” 

The county also plans to expand events at its Henderson Stadium to include football, soccer and rugby. – Liz Fabian

Read Part 1 of the 2024 Preview at

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-302-2976. Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley reports on education, health, transportation, housing and public safety and may be contacted at [email protected] or 478-301-5777.

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