A proposal for a new downtown Pensacola arena has been pitched, with the plan calling for the venue to serve as the home of a New Orleans Pelicans‘ NBA Gatorade League (G League) affiliate.
According to a report from The Pensacola New Journal, developer Jay Patel recently discussed the proposal in a meeting with representatives from the Pelicans along with several local officials, including Pensacola mayor Ashton Hayward. The private meeting included some details on Patel’s plan, an $80-to-$100 million mixed-use development that features an arena, convention center, hotel, and retail.
The development would be constructed on a 19-acre property along West Main Street that was once used for an Emerald Coast Utilities Authority wastewater treatment plant. It is expected that public funds could be proposed to fund a portion of the plan, but the exact amount has not been specified. One official who attended part of the meeting reports that a question was asked about raising the tourist development tax by one cent. More from The Pensacola News Journal:
[Rusty] Branch, executive director of the Escambia County Destination Marketing Organization, told the News Journal he was in a portion of the meeting and said a question was asked about increasing the tourist development tax by one cent for a new arena.
The tax is a 4 percent charge on rentals of less than six months. It is largely generated through hotel stays, but also on bookings through short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO. The tax is primarily meant to fund tourism advertising and marketing, but state statute allows for it to also pay for a facility that would support tourism-related activities, such as a multi-purpose sports and convention arena.
“(Patel) said that the hoteliers were not, at this point, definitive either way — is what was stated (in the meeting),” said Branch, whose organization includes many of the region’s hoteliers as members. “But what the DMO, our hoteliers, have said — and Jay’s a part of that group — is that we would not be supportive of the fifth cent right now.”
Branch said hoteliers are supportive of reallocating the first two cents of the tax away from the Pensacola Bay Center and to a new facility that will draw tourists for sporting events. The county allocates the two cents to provide about $1.3 million each year to cover the Bay Center’s operations, plus $200,000 for renewal and replacement projects.
Hayward, for his part, is saying that there is no specific proposal to present publicly:
Hayward told the News Journal on Thursday that at this point, there is no specific proposal to present to the public, and the meeting was to discuss the viability of using Pensacola Sports Association’s studies and plans to combine a sports tourism facility with a multi-use arena.
“I think the possibility of a new multi-use development has a tremendous potential to bring new investment,” Hayward said. “For me, I’m excited to work with the county, the private sector and other stakeholders to see if it’s a viable opportunity.”
Earlier this year, the Pelicans announced their intention to establish the team, which is expected to begin play in the 2018-19 G League season.
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