High prices may drive QU out of town - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

High prices may drive QU out of town

August 20, 2007

Albany -- Organizers of one of Albany's largest and oldest tourism events says they might have to look for a new home.   Quail Unlimited says recent prices increases at the Albany Civic Center shocked them, and after twenty years in Albany the group is now considering moving their Celebrity Quail Hunt to another community.  

For the last 20 years Albany has been host to Quail Unlimited's Celebrity Hunt. But Q.U.'s directors say price increases in their latest proposal from the Albany Civic Center gave them sticker shock, and could force them look for other locales to hold their largest annual fund raiser.

Quail Unlimited Executive Director Rocky Evans said, "There are some areas in here that are deal breakers."

Dozens of stars of Hollywood, sports, and music come to Albany to hunt at Plantations across South Georgia, as a fund raiser for the wildlife conservation group, and their visit injects hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Albany economy. For three nights Quail Unlimited rents the Civic Center to hold dinners and auctions.

But Evans said the price increases on the rental of tables and chairs quoted by the Civic Center stunned them. "480 tables used to cost us $800 to $900. Now we would pay three thousand dollars, just for tables. The numbers on chairs is even worse, it went up six hundred percent."

Civic Center Director John Mazola said the Civic Center has not increased rates since July 1996, and they needed to raise equipment rental rates so that the Civic Center is shared by the event sponsors and not a burden on the tax payers of Albany. "The pricing on the tables and chairs was actually adjusted to mirror the local rental companies."

Evans said last year Quail Unlimited paid about $7,600 to the Civic Center for rental. Their proposal would raise that to $25,000--- a 225% increase.

The Civic Center proposal offered a three year contract with a $33,000 inducement package from the city to help offset some of the cost increases, but asked Quail Unlimited to put up a five thousand contract deposit.

Evans said that could be the real deal breaker. "The five thousand dollar deposit is really an insult. It just gives them the opportunity to use our money for three years, and that they don't trust us."

Mazzola says the Civic Center is also committed to keep Quail Unlimited in Albany. Rocky Evans says that is also what they want. "Absolutely, absolutely we want to work it out, but at the same time we don't want to be held up at gun point," Evans said.

Chamber of Commerce officials say the Quail Unlimited Celebrity Hunt is one of the city's largest convention and visitor events of the year, not only for the economic boost, but also for public relations boost, and they are already working to get the deal worked out.

The Quail Unlimited Celebrity Hunt is held in late January. Civic Center officials say rentals are in high demand at that time of year.

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