ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) — Professional sports teams once lived in the Southwest Georgia area, but recently the area hasn’t had a sports team for years.

Monday, Jim Wallace of WALB spoke with Dr. Chris Barnhill of Georgia Southern University’s Sports Management Program about it.

“What’s it going to take as professional sports explode across the state of Georgia, to bring it back to Southwest Georgia?” Wallace asked.

“You know, what we’re seeing in Savannah, Macon and Statesboro is we’ve seen dynamic ownership. Really people who really understand the community. And don’t sell the sport so much as the idea of ​​something unique within the community. So we have the Savannah Bananas in Savannah. And we have their ownership group, they sell Banana Ball. It’s not professional baseball, it’s Banana Ball. It’s their own version of entertainment. Tormenta at Statesboro, the USSL football team. They are selling a connection to the community and they have really gone out of their way. To really embrace the idea that Statesboro is too small to have a professional sports team, and we can really make it work together. In Macon, they kind of fit in with the Macon Bacon. And they took on their own identity. So I think what we’re seeing right now in the professional minor league sports industry is the organizations that are really successful, they’re really trying to forge a relationship that’s unique to them and their community. It’s not necessarily sports related. It’s about the community rallying around this one thing. So I think in Albany you already have facilities. It’s just about finding that entrepreneur who wants to come in and say OK, what could we do to make a hockey team or a baseball team something unique to Albany. Because that’s really where the sport is heading,” Barnhill replied.

Wallace asked, “Do you think the reason sports are exploding in the state of Georgia is that people are ready to come out after the pandemic?”

“Absolutely, absolutely. People don’t want to be inside anymore. Sport is, even though we are together in these crowds, people feel more comfortable outside. Especially outdoor sports have really taken off. But now people feel more comfortable being back in the arena. They just want that connection. They want something to encourage as a community. And sport gives us that. It’s a chance to forget everything that happened and have fun for a few hours,” Barnhill said.

Copyright 2022 WALB. All rights reserved.