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Pensacola Arena Proposal Stalls

A proposal for a new Pensacola arena has hit a roadblock, as the Escambia County Commission did not vote on a key measure Thursday. 

On Thursday, the commission was to have voted on a letter of intent between the county and Pensacola Arena Development Partners. The letter of intent would have outlined the conditions that have to be met in order for the proposal to move forward, but there are several questions remaining in the process.

A major issue in the ongoing discussion is the project’s site, and how it affects plans to fund the $80 million arena and youth sports complex. Two major pieces of the funding proposal include a $25 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast, along with $20 million in federal new market tax credits. However, two sites that have been in the running for the project–the Pensacola Bay Center, and the site of a former sewage treatment plant–are no longer eligible for the tax credits, prompting questions about where to place the development.

Ultimately, commissioners did not feel comfortable moving forward with a vote without having plans for a new site in place. More from The Pensacola News Journal:

Commissioner Steven Barry said he couldn’t support the agreement until a final location was selected because he believed a financial analysis wouldn’t have all the variables until a final location was chosen.

Commissioner Grover Robinson also said any agreement would be premature without a location.

Commissioner Doug Underhill said the project came about thanks to a 2015 study from Crossroads Consulting Services that said a youth sports tourism facility would do well in Pensacola, but the market had changed since then while the project had become a larger facility with a 6,500-seat arena.

“What we’re talking about right now is not what we were told we needed or would work here in Escambia County,” Underhill said. “…We either need to start talking about building what’s in the Crossroads study or we need a study similar to the Crossroads study that says what we’re building is the right thing for Escambia County. So, I know this is going to upset some folks, but I am getting off the train tonight.”

Pensacola’s current main arena is the aging Pensacola Bay Center, a venue that originally opened in 1985.

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