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'I hope it can bring Macon back': Bibb leaders break ground on new amphitheater

Mayor Lester Miller announced the project in September.

MACON, Ga. — The sound of music is alive again in Macon. Wednesday, Mayor Lester Miller hosted the groundbreaking for the new amphitheater at the Macon Mall.

There was no concert Wednesday, but there was live music, and local leaders rolled up to the groundbreaking in a tour bus. Over the loudspeaker, the announcer described, 'Like the tour buses that will be here at the amphitheater next summer.'

"I'll tell you, we are back. Macon-Bibb County and our music history, we are back," Miller told the crowd.

Miller announced the amphitheater in September, about 160 days ago, as part of a major overhaul to the mall.

"It's a great day not only for music in Macon, but also tourism in Macon. Obviously, the last three weeks have been one announcement after another," said Gary Wheat, Visit Macon's president and CEO.

Miller told the crowd that when he first made the announcement, he heard a lot of doubts.

"I hope today, we removed all that doubt. I hope today, Macon-Bibb County can move forward together," he said.

Thomas Pate grew up around the Macon Mall. He remembers hanging out with his friends there. He says it's changed a lot since his childhood.

"If you walk in the mall right now, you probably could count on both your hands how many people are there right now," Pate said.

That's exactly what Miller hopes to change with the amphitheater.

"We will work hard each and every day to refocus and revitalize this area that I call home," Miller said.

Miller says the amphitheater is expected to open sometime in summer 2023.

Next week, the county will host community input sessions where people who live in Macon can tell local leaders how they want the amphitheater to look. Miller said he'll even take name suggestions.

He says there's no price tag for the project yet. The county will have a final cost after the input sessions. Miller did say they already have a plan on how to pay.

The Urban Development Authority is issuing bonds to pay for it up front, kind of like a loan. Then, rental income from the mall and amphitheater will pay those bonds back. Miller plans to move some government offices to the mall, and add an indoor pickleball facility, restaurants and more shops to offset the cost.

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