Macon Centreplex Coliseum and City Auditorium
Middle Georgia’s Premier Concert and Event Venues
The Macon Centreplex is made up of the Macon City Auditorium and the Macon Coliseum. Nestled in the city’s historic downtown district, the Auditorium was built in 1925, and is a National Historic Landmark and a Macon treasure. Seating 2,400 people, the building’s unique architecture includes a Doric-style limestone colonnade and a copper dome, which is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. Across the Ocmulgee River sits the Coliseum, a top-notch facility first opened in 1968.
Home to some of music’s greatest acts, including Elvis, Prince, Jackson 5, and Little Richard, the Macon Coliseum has a capacity of 9,000 and is the ideal setting for a wide range of events including concerts, conventions, trade shows, hockey, and so much more. As the entertainment venue of choice for Macon and Middle Georgia, it continues to attract large crowds and bring a diverse selection of experiences to the region.
Speaking to the history of the Centreplex, CEO of Visit Macon, Gary Wheat recounts, “We are coming up on 2023, which will be our Bicentennial here in Macon-Bibb County. For the Centennial in 1923, the auditorium was erected as a gift to the community. It is a historic venue where a lot of wonderful, legendary performers got their start, or in the case of Otis Redding, where his funeral was held. It is the same with the Coliseum. The design and the architecture are reflective of our Great Temple Mount, which sits in Ocmulgee National Historic Park just across the street and was the native homeland of the Muskogee Creek Nation so many years ago.” As for today, he relays, “Last year 120,000 people came from over 50 miles away just to attend an event at one of those facilities. That speaks to the tourism aspect of what these venues generate for our community.”
Owned by Macon-Bibb County, the Centreplex is managed by full-service event management group OVG360, who took over the contract in July of 2016. “So, the county basically hires us to manage and run the assets,” says Macon Centreplex General Manager David Aiello. “We try to minimize expenses while increasing revenues. Before we got here, the Centreplex was losing anywhere from $1.7 to $2.1 million annually, which is a large burden on the taxpayers, and primarily the reason why they brought us in.” Reporting that the Centreplex has seen annual deficits of as little as $600,000 since 2016, he adds, “We’ve been able to shave anywhere from $1.1 to $1.5 million, which obviously the county can put back into the roads, making sure that police and fire are paid properly.”
Part of the effort to increase revenue for Macon Centreplex includes attracting more patrons through higher quality events and thinking outside the box when it comes to bookings. “We’ve been able to attract The Go Big Show, which is a TV show that films on TBS. For the last two years they have rented out the Coliseum for six weeks. It’s events like that that really drive hotel and motel tax,” describes Aiello.
The Georgia High School Association brings state basketball, wrestling, and cheerleading and dance championships to the Coliseum, which is another positive for the facilities, as he explains, “We really want to be the hub for Middle Georgia for sports and the location of Macon really helps with that. If the high school championships were in Atlanta, some people would have a five-hour drive just to get there. So being in Macon, it’s centrally located. At most, you’re going to have a three-hour drive, and you don’t have to deal with the Atlanta traffic.”
Through a Georgia initiative called SPLOST, a special-purpose sales tax which the state distributes every 10 years, Macon Centreplex has instituted some capital improvement projects. “We’ve been able to make renovations to the Coliseum and the Auditorium, just to upgrade the facilities, and upgrade the mechanical,” reports Aiello. With the Auditorium currently undergoing a facelift he adds, “We just finished phase one of that. Phase two will go through the end of next summer, and we’re looking to spend anywhere from $15 to $20 million, just to accomplish that.” The first phase included a renovation of the old ceiling, which was moldy due to a previously leaking roof. It also included new bathrooms, which Aiello says was a necessary upgrade as they were the number one complaint among patrons.
Phase two of the project will involve painting, new carpet, new chairs, and the addition of two restrooms on the main level of the auditorium. An enhanced concession area will feature grab and go items to complement what is known in the industry as the “belly up” fare of pretzels, beer, and popcorn. Aiello explains, “We are going to have something similar to what you have in airports and some of the larger cities, where you can walk up, go up to the cooler, and grab what you want. There will be an attendant there that can scan you out, which will make lines better.” With a plan to have these improvements completed by December of 2023, he shares that the goal is to have the upgrades complete before the 100-year birthday of the Auditorium, and the bicentennial celebrations of Macon-Bibb County.
On the Coliseum side, the venue has a new ice floor, which over time will save the facility money. Aiello recounts, “That, in essence, is digging up the cement slab that you typically see for concerts. We dug that up, replaced all the pipes, and the piping that goes to the mechanical room where the HVAC system and the ice plant is, which is also all new. We got all new chillers and all new air handler units, which will allow us to really control the airflow in certain areas of the venue. In the past it has really been all on or all off, which obviously from a utility standpoint, isn’t very financially stable.” New color-changing arena lights, a video scoreboard, dasher boards, and a new Zamboni were also part of the necessary investment into the 54-year-old coliseum. He asserts, “One of the reasons we were brought in was because prior to us getting here the buildings weren’t maintained, everything just had band aids put on it to make sure it got through a weekend or an event, and everything was failing. In order to stay open, we had to fix those elements.”
The marketing of Macon Centreplex takes several approaches, starting with a budget to use mass media to showcase events and shows in order to sell tickets. On the internal side, the facility also has a budget to promote the Centreplex for private events such as weddings and galas, while also promoting experience and past success. “We are always putting together sheets for agents and bands on the history of what we’ve been able to do and to recap, show off the market, and really try to attract as much business as we can from that standpoint. Really, we market in two different ways, through events and then through our own internal marketing dollars,” maintains Aiello. Highlighting the community of Macon, the Centreplex also offers a preferred catering list to event planners, bolstering local restaurants and caterers whenever possible.
With a new amphitheater in the planning stages, Macon Centreplex is looking forward to this 10,000-seat addition to their venue offerings. Half a mile from Downtown Macon, this new location will bring even more entertainment options to the city. Aiello boasts, “We are helping to design it, so it’s going to be state of the art when it comes to concession stands, access to patrons, and parking lots. It’s really going to open us up to a whole new genre and level of artists to attract them to Macon.” As for what he’s most looking forward to in the future, he says, “The amphitheater, seeing the renovations get done at the Auditorium and the Coliseum, and putting those into action. We are revitalizing the two facilities back to the way they were. It’s making them more efficient; it’s making them more consumer-friendly. Seeing that hard work over the last five years come to fruition is rewarding, it’s fun, and we’re looking forward to the shows coming in and seeing that work as well.”
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AT A GLANCE
Macon Centreplex Coliseum & City Auditorium
What: A historic coliseum and auditorium in the city of Macon.
Where: Macon-Bibb County Georgia
Visit Macon – www.maconga.org
The mission of Visit Macon is to unify and lead our community in marketing the Macon-Bibb County area as a superior visitor and meeting destination. Visit Macon promotes Macon, Georgia to travel writers, meeting planners, group tour operators and leisure travelers to bring people and revenues into the community and area businesses.