Monday, September 29, 2008

From Between the Hedges to Under the Lights

Atlanta's Theater of the Stars just concluded a two-weekend run of the smash-hit Schönberg/MacKintosh/Boubil musical Les Miserables - affectionately known to its die-hard fans as "Les Mis."

Handling the lead role of the noble parole-jumpingthief and the play's hero, Jean Valjean, was Rob Evan. And here's the kicker - the Broadway sensation was a walk-on player for the UGA Bulldogs in 1986 as a kicker alongside contemporaries John Kasay and Steve Crumley. Evan even sang "Thanks for the Memories" at Vince Dooley's 1989 farewell gala.

Since then, his star has steadily risen among the Broadway elite, and he's tackled some of The Great White Way's most challenging roles. He performed the incredibly difficult lead in Jekyll & Hyde for more than 1,000 shows, portraying the extreme vocal range of the good doctor and his evil twin.

Evan's performance at the Saturday matinee was outstanding. He was tapped to play Valjean two years ago in a Broadway revival, and he definitely brought Broadway chops to the Fabulous Fox. His football physique came in handy as he played the character whose size and strength gives him away to his relentless pursuer, Inspector Javert. And his carefully controlled falsetto was spot-on during Valjean's signature song "Bring Him Home."

The former Dawg brought down the house, and there was no doubt when the crowd came to their feet at the end of the performance that for this kicker, it was good.

Monday, September 22, 2008

From Jennings Mill to Valhalla…

The eyes of the golfing world were on Louisville, Ky. this weekend as the U.S. team pulled off their first Ryder Cup victory since 1999. While the victory was great, Boo Weekly was worth the price of admission. The most unique player in golf was not only the MVP of the U.S. team, but he kept the world entertained with his antics, like his ride down the first fairway:

What those locally may not remember is that Boo was riding his driver down the first fairway at Jennings Mill just two years ago as he finished tied for 42nd at the inaugural Athens Regional Foundation Classic (ARFC). While the $2,030 check may not have set the bank account on fire, it did put him on pace to return to the PGA TOUR.

One of my most enjoyable moments in the three-years of the tournament is sitting in the men’s lounge at Jennings Mill on the Monday of the event’s second year. The finale of the PGA tournament in Hilton Head was delayed until Monday. Boo chipped in on the 18th hole to win the event and the room went wild. He was living the dream of each guy in that room, it was awesome. (Also in the inaugural ARFC field was the PGA TOUR’s 2007 Rookie of the Year and the man that stole the show at the Masters, Brandt Snedeker.)

Recently, the PGA TOUR announced the dated for the 2009 event – April 13-19. This will be the fourth annual event and the crowds and excitement have grown each year. So has the involvement of the Athens business community.

While there is no guarantee that there will be a future Ryder Cup star in the field, you can be assured that there will be some incredible golf played by some great guys. Case in point – Brendon Todd. Todd was a star on the UGA golf team from 2004-07 and he received a sponsor’s exemption into this year’s event. Each sponsor has the right to invite four players who are otherwise not in the field to participate. Todd took advantage of his invitation and led this year’s ARFC after three rounds. It was heartbreaking to see his collapse on the final day, but his resilience showed as he parlayed that experience into a string of top-25 finishes, culminating with a victory at the Utah Championship. The victory puts him in “The 25,” setting him up to spend next season on the big tour. did a great feature on Todd chronicling his week in Athens that led to victory.

The ARFC is one of the highlights of the Athens sports calendar. Not only is it a great event, but all proceeds from the Classic will benefit the Athens Regional Foundation. The Foundation’s goals of community service and education are accomplished by providing the financial means to establish projects and programs to reach out and serve the long-term healthcare needs of area citizens.

So mark your calendars for next April, you never know who might be riding down the fairway…

Lend a Hand, Athens!

This Friday, September 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. a monumental event will occur at The Classic Center.

The Athens Volunteer Service Expo is going to be the place to be on Friday, so you better make plans to be there.

I can hear the questions now. "What is the Volunteer Service Expo? I've never heard of it before."

It's OK! In fact, this is the first time Athens has ever had something like this.

Over 40 nonprofits in the Athens/Oconee area have registered to set up a booth in the Athena ballroom in hopes they'll find some awesome volunteers to help serve in different capacities.

What does this mean for you?

The Athens Volunteer Service Expo is presenting the perfect opportunity for you to find an organization that fits your personality, your passions, your skills and your strengths the best. Let's face it, not everyone wants to volunteer for the same organization. This is YOUR CHANCE to find your perfect service niche!

The idea behind the Expo came from local philanthropist and former Mrs. Georgia, Sherri Goggin. After bringing on the support from Community Connection (aka HandsOn Northeast Georgia), things really started moving! Art Ordoqui-Payton of Community Connection helped recruit the attending nonprofits.

The bottom line is this: take 30 minutes out of your day, whether it's during lunch, after picking up the kids, after going to the gym, before your 2 o'clock meeting, or before you start happy hour before the Bama game, to stop by and support Athens and Oconee nonprofits.

Encourage your friends to come, too! It's more fun to tour around when you have a buddy.

Lend a Hand, y'all! I have a great feeling that Friday is going to be an awesome day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Athens at Center of Palin E-mail Controversy?

Here at The Inbox, we try to avoid politics.

But AP is reporting that a Classic City technology business may be at the center of the controversy surrounding the hacking of Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin's e-mail. According to those reports, a local resident's internet anonymity service may have been used to protect the identity of the hacker. It is important to note that the business owner has not been implicated or accused of any wrongdoing, and plans to cooperate with authorities.

While local economic development leaders often talk about wanting high-tech businesses to come to Athens, I'm not sure if this is the kind of business or attention they expected!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Throwers Staying "Put" in Athens

Athens' own Reese Hoffa was the favorite for the 2008 Olympic Gold medal in the shot put. He won the world championship last year. His winning throw at the U.S. Olympic Trials was good enough to win Olympic gold in past games.

But as several of us from Jackson Spalding learned today, the Olympics are anything but just another track meet. Winning the Olympics means dealing with the natural adversity that comes with overseas travel (for Hoffa, this meant four days of travel while compressing his 315 lb frame into coach seats), dealing with unusual food, having hundreds of spectators attending his practice, and more. In the end, Hoffa settled for 7th place at the 2008 games. Not bad by most people's standards, but not what he wanted either.

But what is amazing is that Hoffa -- world champion, Olympic favorite, etc. -- lives right here among us in Athens in anonymity, despite a winning personality and a compelling story.

He is a part of the Athens Throwing Group, which seems to be an informal group of athletes who compete in the hammer throw, discus, or shotput on the international track and field circuit. These athletes often graduate from UGA and remain here. Others relocate to Athens to train under renowned UGA coach throws coach Don Babbitt. Beyond the occassional burst of publicity that may accompany an Olympic year or world championship, the group trains quietly in town.

They are quietly supported by local businessmen and athletic contributors who call themselves the Champions Club, which is headed by the legendary Billy Henderson (who entertained us with some lunch time stories about Clarke Central football and our own gridiron warrior).

In addition to Hoffa, the group has included from time to time the somewhat controversial Breaux Greer, who you may have seen on the new American Gladiators (photo and video below), Adam Nelson, the 2004 Olympic Silver medalist who once tried to auction his services to a sponsor on Ebay, and others you wouldn't recognize who are among the best in the world.

Today Babbitt (pictured above left with Hoffa) related the Olympic experience to a small group at a local club's monthly Tuesday Topics program. Since a few of us at JS got extremely passionate about the games, we decided to attend, and Babbitt didn't disappoint as he expounded upon on a number of issues, including:
  • the strengths and weaknesses of the American track and field's Olympic qualifying system (which forced Hoffa, the reigning world champion, to "earn" his way onto the team when his international competitors can focus on peaking jsut for the games);
  • Decrying the fact that the Olympic trials were a mere six weeks before the Olympics themselves, leaving little time for recovery and preparation among athletes;
  • The massive resources that UGA offers to its student athletes compared to the meager offerings of USA Track and Field, the national governing body for track; and
  • Outlining the massive investment China made in the Olympics, describing parks "three times as large as Central Park" and venues more than 400 meters away from each other. At one point, Babbit said he had to walk two miles to find a post office. Seems that everything about the China Olympics was supersized!
As a friend told me a few weeks ago when we ran into Olympic swimming coach Jack Bauerle at Big City Bread, Athens always seems to have a surprise up its sleeve. You never know where you'll find it, whether on the road, in the pool, at the track or somewhere totally different.

Reese Hoffa making the world's longest throw

Breaux Greer's American Record

Thursday, September 11, 2008

......A Good Day at the Office

If you have a business in Athens, you're going to get asked to play in charity golf tournaments. If you have a decent golfer in your office, you'll find that you start getting asked to play about every week, especially in the Fall. We happen to have a two handicapper at our office, so of course, everyone in town suddenly wants your office (or more specifically, your ringer) to join their team for a fund raiser.

While there is some truth to the old adage that "a bad day on the golf course beats a good day at the office every time," I will add this axiom: A business day on the golf course makes for long nights and early mornings for those in the client service business. And whether you're in the office or not, you might wind up spending what should be a relaxing day on the course on your cell phone instead dealing with pressing issues.

So when I got an e-mail today announcing the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce's "Non-Tournament" Tournament fund raiser, I had to laugh. It's a great idea -- get the sponsors, have the party, do the socializing, but let everyone get some work done that day anyway. Here's what Chamber President Doc Eldridge had to say:

"A funny thing developed as people began to respond. The majority of you said they they were happy to do a tee sponsorship for $100, but PLEASE, don't ask me or my staff to take another day off from work and play in yet another golf tournament. There are at least 8 other tournaments within the next few weeks, and you like the rest of us have gotten worn out on spring and fall golf tournaments."

Kudos to Doc Eldridge for some creative thinking. Perhaps we could have a Golden Tee Machine brought in for the party and have have some Wii Golf for a mini-tournament anyway (video below). Chamber Press Release follows.

This year golfers and businesses participating in the Chamber’s final fund raising event of the year won’t have to worry about Tee-times. Businesses won’t spend time figuring out who will be manning the store and who will be representing the company on the golf course. Players won’t be scrambling at the last minute to arrange a fourth, and nobody will be up all night finagling how to fit one more event-- and another golf tournament-- into an already typical and event filled season known as Fall in Athens.

There are even more benefits of the tournament this year: No worry about the weather. No worry about missed work. Even no worry about fudging on a handicap. In fact, no tournament. Just a celebratory scoring party for a job well done.

This year’s 4th Annual Paul Miller Classic Golf Tournament will be a NON Tournament.

The day promises to have all the trappings of a major tournament, complete with tee sponsors, which keep coming in, says Chamber President and CEO Doc Eldridge. Members can end a productive day at work with a Scoring Party held in the Chamber’s comfortable and all-weather board room with drinks and hors d’œuvres to celebrate a productive day.

The event was started four years ago as a tribute to Paul Miller, the Chamber’s economic development director for some 20 years. “Paul brought business people together to plan how to make Athens a better place to live,” says Eldridge. “The tournament was begun to bring people together for a time of sport, fellowship and dreams for the future of the Athens area. We are continuing that tradition on Tuesday, October 7 with the Paul Miller Classic Golf Non Tournament. Instead of a day on the golf course, we’ll have the opportunity after work, traditionally the time when those manning the office joined the golfers.” All sponsors, says Eldridge, will be included in the scoring party.

There are other benefits as well. “With the virtual golf tournament, tee sponsors multiply exposure potentials. “Typically, the tee signs only reach the players, roughly 70 to 80,” says Eldridge, who adds that the players often are more interested in their game than the signs that decorate the course. “By having a non tournament tournament, we are increasing exposure to nearly 160,000 by combining the circulation of the Sunday page and e-mails to our many members in the coming weeks,” says Eldridge.

Businesses or individuals interested in sponsoring a tee may contact the Chamber at 706-549-6800, or simply email Doc at

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Athens Multi-Modal Station up for Big Award

Athens' own multi-modal station -- which serves as a bus transfer station and downtown hub while it waits on the eventual arrival of the Brain Train -- is up for one of Atlanta's most prestigious real estate awards.

On September 18 local leaders will find out if the station earns the Urban Land Institute's Development of Excellence award for the southern region. Interestingly, another past finalist for the award from Athens is the restored Hodgson Oil Building, which now houses UGA's communications and police departments. The Hodgson Oil Building is just a stone's throw from the multi-modal station.

See the video here....

Prince Happenings

At Jackson Spalding, we're proud to be a part of the Bottleworks community on Prince Avenue. Our location offers a lot of benefits -- we're in a great old mixed-use complex, it's in a beautiful and historic neighborhood, we can walk downtown relatively easily, sidewalks abound, the neighbors are great, parking is easy and we have a lot of wonderful dining choices (Big City Bread, The Grit, 237 Prince, and Siri Thai to name a few).

However, some positive changes are afoot on the Prince Avenue corridor that will make it an even better area. Since Athens loves to talk about Prince, we thought we would post an update here.

First of all, McChesney Capital, the company that owns the Foundry Park Inn and is involved with several other local real estate projects, recently acquired most of the Bottleworks (several homes and offices are individually owned). Several changes are already underway or complete, including a new website, newly landscaped and renovated internal courtyard (pictured above) and improved landscaping. Plans were also recently approved by Athens Historic Preservation Commission that will allow the owners to install dramatic new signage, lighting, and landscaping throughout. Parking will also be improved, traffic flow adjusted and better directional signage installed.

According to the building's new managers, the goal is to make the Bottleworks a destination in Athens and to raise its profile. Potential new tenants being targeted include a 75+ seat upscale American restaurant concept, a new coffee shop facing Prince, a pub with outdoor dining in the new courtyard, and a variety of retail and office space users.

Across the street, Taqueria del Sol is rehabbing an old service station into one of its wonderful fast casual Mexican offerings (see picture). For all of us Atlanta ex-pats, this is exciting news. Taqueria is well known for the food-that-makes-waiting-in-a-line-out-the-door-worth-it at its three Atlanta locations, where it offers a mix of fresh mex and wonderful cuisine. While this has been reported minimally locally, in the Inbox's opinion, this could significantly alter the dining dynamic of Prince and bring more young professionals, families and students onto Prince for their evening meals, which is a good thing.

At any rate, that's the latest from 237 Prince Avenue -- anything else going on that we should know about?