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.”
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.”