For the first time in almost 50 years, the Macon Coliseum was empty during the 2017 Georgia High School Association State Basketball Championships. In 2018, it'll be filled once again with athletes going for the gold.

The tournament's return to Macon has local teams hungry to go all the way.

Warner Robins High School coach Jamaal Garman says he'll "definitely use it as a goal, as a tool to motivate the guys. It's a possibility of playing right in our backyard for a state championship."

There's plenty for businesses to be excited about, too. The Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau says the tournament is a windfall to the local economy.

According to CVB President Gary Wheat, the tournament is expected to bring $3.2 million to hotels, restaurants and vendors.

For the general manager David Aiello of Spectra, the company contracted by Bibb County to run the Macon Coliseum and  Macon Auditorium, bringing the tournament home was a matter of pride.

"Our goal is to make Macon proud."

The title games will return to the Coliseum in March of 2018.

Journalist Matthew Jennings