In an effort to build support for a new downtown Augusta arena concept, a committee has been formed to promote the initiative ahead of a May ballot.
There has been considerable debate in the Georgia city over how to plan a potential predecessor to the existing James Brown Arena in downtown Augusta. While building a new facility at the current James Brown Arena location is favored in some circles, there has been a push among other officials to construct a new venue at the Regency Mall site in south Augusta.
On the May 22 ballot, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on two non-binding questions concerning the arena site–one yes-or-no question asking if officials should back the current location, and another asking if they should support the Regency Mall site. As announced on Tuesday by businessman Brad Usry, a committee is forming to back the downtown site ahead of that election. More from The Augusta Chronicle:
“The Friends of the James Brown Arena will promote the positive attributes of a downtown location,” Usry said. “We will ethically and honestly manage this campaign and educate voters on the facts.”
Usry is one of three Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority members who opposed a push backed by Mayor Hardie Davis to build a new arena at the privately-owned Regency Mall property on Gordon Highway. A $144,000 study commissioned by the authority determined last year that the current James Brown Arena location is the best site for a new arena, although construction of a new arena is not yet funded.
Over the last few days, at least three billboards and a yard sign campaign have appeared asking voters to support the mall site. Two billboards on the mall property include no statement about who is paying for them, suggesting a private party such as the mall owner is doing so. The billboards display a rendering of a redeveloped mall area that Davis use city funds to obtain from an Atlanta consulting firm. Another billboard on Peach Orchard Road claims to be paid by “Concerned Citizens of Richmond County,” although that group is not registered with local or state elections officials as ballot committees must be.
Few facts about the mall proposal are known beyond a set of terms obtained from mall owner Cardinal Management last year that the Augusta Commission rejected several times. The terms included Cardinal donating 10 acres on which the authority would build an arena while retaining all surrounding property to develop as it chooses, with the city absorbing all taxes, expenses and maintenance.
James Brown Arena originally opened in 1980.
RELATED STORIES: Augusta Arena Site Sent to Non-Binding Referendum; Augusta Arena Pitch Referred to City Commission; Commission Votes to End Augusta Arena at Regency Mall Talks; Augusta Arena at Regency Mall Rejected; Augusta Arena Vote Set for Tuesday; Deadline Imposed on Augusta Arena Negotiations; Regency Mall Site Eyed for Augusta Arena; Augusta Slowing Down Arena Pursuit; Augusta Close to Selecting New Arena Site; Augusta Meets with Arena Design Firms; James Brown Arena’s Success Fuels New Arena Talks