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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Ice Age has returned to Central Georgia in the form of the Macon Mayhem hockey team. As members of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), the Mayhem will face teams including the Columbus Cottonmouths, the Fayetteville FireAntz, the Knoxville IceBears, the Huntsville Havoc, the Louisiana Ice Gators, the Pensacola IceFlyers, the Peoria Rivermen and the Mississippi RiverKings.
Home ice for the Mayhem is the Macon Coliseum and Centreplex, a multi-purpose arena and convention center located at exit #2 off I-16 in downtown Macon. The facility was built in 1968, but underwent significant renovations in both 1993 and 2003. It has hosted a wide variety of sports and entertainment events over the years, including concerts by Elvis Presley, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, the Jackson 5 and more recent acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Katy Perry and R.E.M. Among the sporting events held in the arena are WWE wrestling, and the Georgia State high school basketball championships. Probably its most famous tenant (if only for its memorable name) was the Macon Whoopees, a Central Hockey League team that called Macon home from 1996-2002. The coliseum can hold 7,182 in its ice hockey configuration.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Macon Centreplex has abundant concession stands (three on each side) and one in the lobby at the north end of rink. No lines are encountered, as a result. This is also due to the scarcity of food and beverage selection. Choices are posted on the board, including nachos ($4), pretzels ($2.50), popcorn ($3), candy and chips ($2). However, a major negative is that the prices did not appear on the product board during our visit, which meant questioning the vendor on the costs of items. The merchandise store in the front lobby was doing well when we visited, as all the product is new for the area.
The exterior of the Macon Centreplex is very eye-pleasing, as it has a glass and stainless steel entry way, and the entry is highlighted by a large metallic letter "M", for Macon. The entry lobby is spacious and attractive, with a wall dedicated to the Macon Sports Hall of Fame, as well as the team store. Once in the arena itself, the age of the building shows. Since it a multi-purpose facility, there is little signage to indicate it is home to the Mayhem.
Seating is on both sides of the ice, but there is little or no seating behind the nets. There is a scoreboard hanging over center ice, but it was not used during the game we attended, Two very small scoreboards (high school sized) are at each end of the ice, and they list the teams as home and visitor. There are no video screens available for replays or entertainment.
There was an extremely short turn-around in relocating the team to Macon, and hopefully there will be more obvious identification of the team being based at this facility.
The Coliseum's location in downtown Macon brings it within walking distance of hotels, restaurants and the city's top attractions. To reach downtown, simply take the sidewalk over the Ocmulgee River bridge. The first attraction you will see is the Ocmulgee Heritage Greenway, a paved hike/bike trail on the east banks of the river. It runs for seven miles, but a walk to the boat launch ramp and back is about a 25 minute walk and provides you with great vistas of downtown Macon.
Your next stop is on the west side of the bridge at Otis Redding Gateway Park. You will see a statue and several plaques about this Macon native who is most famous for his hit "Sitting by the Dock of the Bay". Macon has a terrific music heritage, as artists including Little Richard, the Allman Brothers, and the Marshall Tucker Band called this town home. Sports also have a rich history here, and it is celebrated at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, located on Cherry Street, about four blocks west of the river. Amongst its members are Bobby Jones, Walt Frazier, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Herschel Walker, Sugar Ray Robinson, Edwin Moses and Bill Elliott. Additional exhibits salute National championships won by Georgia colleges, the 1996 Olympic Games and Georgia's many professional sports franchises. As you make your way back towards the Coliseum, take a right into Macon's Central City Park. It is home to the second-oldest minor-league park in the country. Built in 1929, Luther Williams Field is on the National Historic Register and has seen such elite players as Tony Perez, Vince Coleman, Chipper Jones and countless others play on its diamond. The stadium was also featured in the films "42" and "Trouble with the Curve".
As far as accommodations near the Centreplex, you can't beat the Macon Marriott City Center, as it is located adjacent to the Coliseum. No need to find a parking space or worry about traffic after the game if you are staying here! As for eating and drinking establishments to check out, the Rookery on Cherry Street is the place to go. It features the best hamburgers in Middle Georgia, has a wide array of craft beers available and also offers more than 20 different flavors of milkshakes.
A bright spot for the Mayhem is that they have a very dedicated fan base of true hockey fans. Many are still wearing the hockey jerseys of the wonderfully named "Macon Whoopees" of the 1980's, which actually had great attendance, but their league folded. Another contingent of Mayhem fans are refugees from many of the previous ice ages in Atlanta that suffered meltdowns (Atlanta Flames, Atlanta Thrashers and the Atlanta Knights) and are willing to make the 90-mile drive to Macon for their hockey fix. Probably the loudest fans are the many youth hockey organizations in attendance at the game. Their various colors of uniforms and their continuous clapping of their thunder sticks makes them hard to ignore.
The fan base is still in the "getting to know you" phase with the team, which will deepen with time. A Mayhem booster club has already been formed to help feed, house and befriend the players who are new to the city. This is a very common occurrence in minor league hockey.
Macon Coliseum and Centreplex is located adjacent to exit 2 off I-16 in downtown Macon, in the geographic center of Georgia. It is located 80 miles south of Atlanta via I-75/I-16 and has more than 2,300 parking spaces available for fans. The Centreplex is reachable by the local transit authority (Macon Transit Authority), and most of the downtown hotel shuttles will drop you off and pick you up at the facility.
Ticket prices range between $10-15, depending on your location in the arena. Parking is plentiful and costs $5. There are a variety of hotels located very close to the facility, with prices ranging from $80- $150. The concessions are sparse, but reasonably priced.
I would have to make mention of the neighborhood surrounding the Centreplex for its wide variety of eating establishments, museums and nightlife within walking distance of the arena.
Also worthy of note is Mayhem Mel, the team's mascot. He is constantly wandering through the stands, posing for dozens of photos with children. He also makes visits to the area children's hospital and is a wonderful ambassador for the team.
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