ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The South Georgia Wildcats just finished their most successful season yet in Albany but there have been rumblings that the team could pack up and head out of town.
Team and city leaders are about to start negotiating a new deal. The Wildcats hope it will boost their bottom line but both sides say they're committed to keeping the team here for years to come.
Any football season is full of some highs and some lows. The South Georgia Wildcats almost closed this season on a record high note. "Right now it's just a big disappointing feeling of how it kind of ended," said Wildcats General Manager Darren McPhail.
They didn't win their first home playoff game this past weekend but it's still been a great season overall. "From many, many standpoints," said McPhail, "we're 12 and 4."
McPhail says they're pleased with attendance and support at those home games. "It's been great for four years," said McPhail. But when it comes to the Wildcat's 5-year contract with the city, there are some things they'd like city leaders to take a look at.
"We're kind of in the process right now of working with the city to make 2009 better," said McPhail.
Under the current contract, the Wildcats control the permanent advertising signage over the Civic Center floor. They also control and get 100 percent profit from the sale of concessions but there's a financial agreement in place. To have that control, they have to pay the city $50,000 a year.
"There's two aspects of that agreement. That's one of the things we're working on to tweak that and make it a little more beneficial for the future," said McPhail.
"My mind is open and I'm open to hear all proposals," said Albany City Manager Alfred Lott.
Alfred Lott says the Wildcats are a tremendous value to the city of Albany. "We see them as a possession and a major component that makes us a good place to live," said Lott.
As the city works to keep that asset here, they have to be cost conscious. "The Civic Center in order to operate has an exceptional cost," said Lott. It's about an $800,000 expense. It's $500 a day simply for utilities at the Civic Center.
Even so, Lott says the Wildcats are an investment and he'll look at options. "We'd love to keep them in Albany and I'm going to do all that I can to do so," said Lott. That includes looking at everything from the current $2,500 rent charges to ticket management.
McPhail says the team is happy but some changes will help with the team's future success. "Really continuing to be a staple in this community," said McPhail.
That way both sides win.
City leaders hope to have an agreement in place in the next couple of months. Any changes must be approved by city commissioners.