The Constant Battle for Sports Franchise Survival
Albany Panthers General Manager Will Carter works day-in and day out to make his franchise successful.
On a Monday in February, weeks before the season opener, Carter met with local businesses vying for the sponsorship dollar. According to Carter's efforts, it's a constant battle to keep a franchise viable in Southwest Georgia.
"It's difficult because you're going to get some yes' and you're going to get some no's. As you saw, you're going to get people that won't even give you the time of day," Carter said.
Set for at least four more years in the city, the Panthers are actually a success story. Though, they are the outlier.
Many professional teams have come and gone, yet the stories are the same. Lack of community support leaves local franchises lacking.
"The thing that's a little disheartening for me...people say there's nothing to do in this community and then when you do have something, they don't come out in support," Former Albany Shockwave GM Christopher Pike said.
Looking back on his time with the basketball franchise, Pike will admit he missed on the franchise fundamentals of ticket sales and sponsorships. Pike says the biggest issue with a local team is the area's wait and see mentality.
"We'll wait on the sidelines and wait for things to be successful and that's not how things become successful. People have to come on board, they have to support it and nurture it...then it becomes successful," Pike said. "That's like telling your children grow up and then we'll feed you."
Tift County's Georgia Firebird semi-pro team is struggling through the same obstacles. Owner Darien Teals focuses the franchise around philanthropy and the South Georgia community.
"We are a football team, but we are a community outreach program first. I like to use football as the carrot," Teals said.
After three seasons in Tifton, the Firebirds outreach may be missing this year.
"The cost of running an operation is extensive. That's the only thing that's holding me back," Teals said.
Community support isn't the only obstacle for any local sports franchise.
"Albany will never have an NFL team. You'll never have an Atlanta Falcons, or an Atlanta Braves. You'll never have anything to that magnitude with professional or major league teams. This is the highest it's going to get," Carter said.