Sat, May 25, 2024

Sports team owner draws big crowd for upcoming chamber event

The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s 19th annual banquet is set for the county’s Exhibition Center in Grovetown. The showcase begins at 4:30 p.m. on February 8 and flows into the 6:00 p.m. banquet.

“We’re expecting over 500, we’re not too far off that number right now. I imagine by the time all is said and done, we’ll probably have easily over 500 people in the room,” Russ Lahodny, Chamber President and CEO told ABD. “It’s a good opportunity, a lot of the smaller businesses for sure, enjoy that opportunity to kind of share a little bit about what they do and what they can provide.”

The guest speaker for the event has people in Augusta and hockey fans, taking notice.

Andy Kaufmann is the CEO of Zawyer Sports and owns several East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) teams, including the Jacksonville Icemen and the Savannah Ghost Pirates.

Lahodny said Kaufmann’s story of how he became involved with sports ownership, particularly hockey, is unique.

“He had always, as a young kid, wanted to be an owner of a professional hockey team, and had no affiliation, really, with the sport, and his family wasn’t in the business or anything. So, it’s not like some other sports owners where their dad’s a sports owner. He had no connection to sport. And just had that dream, he said.”

Kaufmann’s visit comes at a time when hockey is back in the minds of local fans with the upcoming construction of a new James Brown Arena.

Augusta was home to the ECHL’s Augusta Lynx from 1998 through 2009. Augusta fans built the reputation of being the “loudest house” in the league.

Members of the Augusta Richmond County Coliseum Authority are reviewing a 40-page feasibility study on bringing hockey back to Garden City.

Cedric Johnson, Chairman of the Coliseum Authority, told ABD at their Jan. 30 meeting that the review is continuing.

“We’re still working on that we’re, as we told the people, we were looking at the proposal that we have from OVG (Oak View Group, the company that manages the JBA and Bell Auditorium), and if it makes good, financial, sound sense, then we’ll have hockey, but we’re still looking at it.”

Johnson and Lahodny said they have both spoken with Kaufmann many times in recent months and Johnson will attend the chamber’s meeting.

Lahodny said they are excited to have secured Kaufmann as their guest speaker, but he is also excited about the opportunity to highlight the chamber’s successes in 2023 and plans for the future.

Part of the future will be the announcement of the six new members to the chamber’s Board of Directors, who will be introduced at the event and begin their three-year term.

They are Eric Bradley, Chief Information Officer, TaxSlayer; Meredith Burkett, Senior Manager, Elliot Davis, LLC; Rob Clifton, CEO, Clifton Construction; Eric Jenkins, CEO, SRP Federal Credit Union; Susan See, Owner, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Andrew Tyson, Co-Owner, MEGAH Softwash.

The chamber will also present its Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement Awards.

The annual banquet is open to members and non-members alike. For more information and to purchase tickets visit:

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