HomeNewsBusinessColiseum Authority Regroups After Arena Bond Referendum Voted Down

Coliseum Authority Regroups After Arena Bond Referendum Voted Down

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Members of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority met in special session following the Nov. 2 vote that went against the bond referendum to build a new James Brown Arena. More than 60% of the 12,844 ballots cast opposed the $240 million dollar referendum.

Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said the Nov. 3 meeting was to talk about what happens next.

“Next steps are to look at the election and evaluate and get more community input to find out what the community is saying,” he said. “We think we know what’s the financing. Now, we’re looking at how we can rectify those things and bring the arena back on the book.”

MORE: James Brown Arena Referendum Fails To Pass

Authority Vice Chairman Brad Usry agreed.

“The referendum was on funding, not the project. So, the people voted on the funding mechanism. So, that’s we’re going to go back and address that,” he explained.

Had it been approved, repaying the bond would have resulted in a 2.7887 millage rate increase on property taxes. For a $100,000 home, that translates to a tax increase of about $97.60 a year.

Usry said they are researching what other financing options may be available.

“We really can’t comment how we’re going to do it right now,” he said. “Everything’s on the table. And we’re going to talk to some folks how it’s done in other cities, maybe how some buildings like this have been built in other municipalities, and everything’s on the table. And again, when we bring it back, lesson learned. We’re gonna make sure we have community input before we stick it out there.”

Johnson agreed that gathering community input is the logical next step.

“We’ve got some work to do,” Johnson said. “The one thing we don’t want to do is to rush it. Again, we want to bring a project back that everybody can be on board with and be very proud of.”

Project manager HB Brantley of Atlanta-based SPACE had planned to begin advertising for a construction manager at risk if the referendum passed. He said everything is on hold for now.

“If we don’t have the funding for the project, we’ll wait to identify the appropriate funding and have the architects complete the drawings,” he said

Some money for the project — $25 million — was included in the SPLOST 8 approved by voters in March 2021. Commissioners authorized releasing $15 million ahead of schedule. Those funds were used for design and development documents.

Usry said they aren’t looking at the outcome of the vote as a rejection.

“We’re looking at this as an opportunity to do it better,” he said. “We’re taking a very positive approach. The committee is still at work. This committee is still together, and we are back at the table.”

Dana Lynn McIntyre is a Staff Reporter with The Augusta Press. You can reach her at [email protected]

17 COMMENTS

  1. The Design is awful! IF you must build it, make it blend in with Augusta!!! I don’t think we need a new arena. CHeaper to renovate what we have. We have many venues in Augusta now, and they seem to do well…..

  2. I voted for it while holding my nose. I think an up to date entertainment complex is another means to breath air into a dying county and propel further growth to the tax coffers. Surrounding counties have wrestled too many of these venues away from Augusta over the last 20 years as we sat on our hands or dreamed ourselves out of contention.

    That being said, Augusta’s Government has taxed and taxed and taxed, and spent and spent and spent until the taxpayers are in revolt. It just happened to be the Arena Bond issue that took the brunt of the backlash and it being a discretionary spend didn’t help. So if the Coliseum Authority leadership really thinks “The referendum was on funding, not the project.”, they are more detached from public sentiment than I thought such an astute team could be.

    Maybe if folks had seen the actual benefit from the Stormwater Fee over the years, it could have been different.
    Maybe if folks didn’t see four or five different trash collection services passing each other, picking up one of two cans while a second company picks up the other later, it could have been different.
    Maybe if folks didn’t see a Commissioner under indictment for misuse of Tax funds, it could have been different.
    Maybe if folks didn’t travel on roads pocked with potholes and patchwork asphalt, it could have been different.
    Maybe if folks didn’t see useless studies proposing to remove statues and monuments at huge expense and in violation of state law, it could have been different.

    So, when the last straw breaks the camel’s back, his whole body hits the ground.

  3. Correct! This was a vote of “no confidence” to tell Hardie Davis, Odie Donald, the commissioners, and the Coliseum Authority they are not worthy of our trust. It took two referendums for all of them to realize they work for us and it’s our money.

    • I AGREE WITH YOUR SENTIMENT.
      I DISAGREE WITH YOUR CONCLUSION THAT THE COMMISSIONERS AND COLISEUM AUTHORITY MEMBERS NOW “ REALIZE THEY WORK FOR US AND IT’S OUR MONEY “.
      THEIR EGOS ARE TOO BIG .
      THEY ARE LEGENDS IN THEIR OWN MINDS .

  4. “Next steps are to look at the election and evaluate and get more community input to find out what the community is saying,” he said.
    Horse feathers! The Coliseum Authority is “whistling past the graveyard”! This was a vote on the entire concept. This project will always be both a short and long term drag on our local economy. An ill conceived albatross around the neck of ARC. (Sorry Mr. Coleridge)

  5. Savannah is opening a new 9,500-seat arena in January. The price tag was $165 million, using SPLOST dollars.

    Why does our arena proposal cost so much more, $235 + million dollars? Why does it have to be built downtown, where parking is hard to find and crime is a concern? There’s also the issue of train delays in and out of events. I believe still that if the people of RC decide to build a new arena, it should be paid for with Splost funds, not property taxes.

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