Officials have opted to pursue the Regency Mall site as a location for a new Augusta arena, a vote that comes as discussions over the future of James Brown Arena continue.
On Tuesday, the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted by a 4-2 margin to pursue Regency Mall as a site for constructing a new arena. Should officials move forward with this option, it would place the new arena outside of the city’s downtown–where the current James Brown Arena is currently located–and onto the site of the former mall that closed in 2002.
More discussion will have to take place during the planning process, but those for and against the idea of building the arena at that site have been quick to react to the authority’s vote. Augusta mayor Hardie Davis issued a statement that lauded the authority for its decision. More from The Augusta Chronicle:
“Earlier today, the Coliseum Authority voted to build a new civic center where the Regency Mall once stood. In choosing this location, which is in the geographic center of our county, the Coliseum Authority has exhibited visionary leadership that will create a bright and promising future for our entire community. I applaud this monumental decision and look forward to continued collaboration with the Coliseum Authority and Commission to turn this shared vision for our new arena, #SOGO, and all of Augusta into a reality.”
Davis will discuss the proposed location and his “vision for #SOGO” 11 a.m. Friday at the Municipal Building, the release states. The Augusta Commission will have to approve the coliseum authority’s proposal.
During the meeting, officials were shown a letter from Davis that, according to The Chronicle, alluded to “negotiations with the owners of the long-vacant Regency Mall property, who reportedly are offering the land to the city for $1 a year for 35 years.”
While the mayor’s reaction to the vote was positive, some officials have already voiced their displeasure with the possibility of shifting the project outside of downtown Augusta. Among them is authority vice chairman Brad Usry, who noted that the vote contradicts the recommendations of a previous consultant’s report. More from WRDW:
Before the vote to move it from downtown to the Regency Mall site, Brad Usry with the Coliseum Authority said they had already agreed on another design that would attach the existing arena to the Bell Auditorium. They paid $142,000 dollars to study locations and Regency Mall never ranked higher than 3rd on their list.
According to Usry, this is not final and there will be people fighting against it (including himself). He also says this is the Mayor’s brainchild and he pushed it through.
The Coliseum Authority voted just two years ago to keep the arena downtown, so this decision turned that upside down according to Usry.
“Now the Coliseum Authority is going to have to man two separate theatres, which will not be cost effective,” said Usry.
To this point, the authority has not identified a funding source for the construction of a new venue. James Brown Arena originally opened in 1980.