Macon Bacon plan for cooling fans at Luther Williams field draws heat from Commissioner Lucas


Macon Bacon Mascot, Kevin Bacon.

With 12 sellouts at Luther Williams field in 2019 and a trip to the playoffs, the Macon Bacon was hot this past season.

Not as hot as the fans, though.

Team president Brandon Raphael showcased the club’s success in a presentation Tuesday to Macon-Bibb County Commissioners. The report included a request for up to $38,000 to install four large 16-foot fans over the stands.

A major complaint or spectator dissatisfaction has been the lack of airflow in the “seating bowl,” Raphael said.

“How do you justify putting in fans at a sporting event when there are so many other needs?” Commissioner Elaine Lucas asked. “We have Rosa Parks Park sitting over there that we promised we were going to do something with.”

Lucas would like to see the county make more money from the team’s use of the historic field.

Presently, the county gets about five percent of concessions from the net profit from the sale of items such as the “6 degrees of Kevin Bacon sandwich” that was a hit with the crowds.

The county gets 25 percent of concession proceeds for other events hosted at the stadium but there were none this season, team co-owner Steve Delay said.

“Last year neither of us made a lot of money from concessions,” Delay told commissioners. “You about $1,000 and us about $1,500.”

Mayor Robert Reichert, who sponsored the resolution to authorize the overhead fans, was one of the most vocal supporters of deferring some of the team’s $50,000 annual rent to pay for them.

“I really do think this will do more to keep the fans and attract more events,” Reichert said. “I have a selfish reason for supporting it. My wife made me leave early. She said it was just too hot. I didn’t get my second beer. I didn’t get to stay until the fifth inning.”

Commissioners Valerie Wynn, Mallory Jones and Joe Allen also spoke in favor of approving the purchase of the fans, which will stay even if the team leaves after their 10-year lease expires.

“I think they’re necessary,” Wynn said. “It’s dead air in there and it’s not easy to breathe. It’s uncomfortable.”

Jones saw it as a way to protect the investment of renovating and maintaining the second-oldest operating ballpark in the country.

“It sits down in a bowl. The air doesn’t circulate,” Jones said. “We certainly don’t want to lose fans or season ticket holders. We want to grow it.”

The team drew more than 58,000 spectators from 84 Georgia counties and 27 states and averaged 2,344 fans per game. A third of the season ticket holders came from more than 20 miles away, according to the presentation.

The Macon Bacon management team has a recommendation from the “Big Ass Fan Company” to install six fans, but they opted to purchase four fans initially. The company name proved to be the butt of many chuckles during the meeting. Reichert more politely referred to the company as the “other one” as the Bacon has consulted others, too, including Humongous Fan.

Commissioners suggested putting in hookups for two other fans if more are needed in the future.

Although Commissioner Lucas professed to be a sports fan with a family of athletes, she said she couldn’t justify the expense after the county already paid $2.5 million to renovate the stadium, an additional $100,000 for the architectural drawings and $50,000 to maintain the facility at Central City Park.

“I just have some real heartburn over putting fans in an outdoor stadium,” she said. “I have constituents who need more than fans to stay cool at a ballgame.”

Commissioners approved the resolution with Lucas and Commissioner Virgil Watkins voting against it. The measure will come up for final approval next week.

As the team management was leaving the building, Lucas told them: “Bring us some more money.”

She is also questioning plans to hire a new county tennis manager with a base salary of about $42,000 and a contract for the manager to reap proceeds of local tournaments.

“We can’t afford to keep giving everything away,” Lucas told the commissioners.

The board voted to approve the salary so the tennis manager job could be posted but will have further debate on contract terms. An informational meeting will be scheduled with  former Macon City Councilwoman and tennis professional Jaime Kaplan before a contract is drawn.

Contact civic fellow Liz Fabian at [email protected] or call 478-301-2976.