Amidst the ongoing debate over where to construct the facility, the Augusta Commission voted Tuesday to only fund a new downtown Augusta arena.
Discussion continues about where to build a proposed new venue to replacing the aging James Brown Arena in downtown Augusta. While some favor building a new venue on the James Brown site, others have called for a facility to be located at the dormant Regency Mall in south Augusta. Nonbinding yes-or-no referendum questions were placed on the ballot in May, and resulted in the downtown site receiving more yes votes than Regency Mall between Democratic and Republican ballots.
In the period since, there has been no commitment on an arena on either site. The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority recently declined to proceed with studying a new venue at the James Brown Arena site, and some officials have been concerned that the May election results are indecisive.
At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner Sammie Sias proposed that the commission vote to only support funding a new arena at the downtown location. That prompted plenty of debate over the merits of the election results, as well as whether Augusta should even proceed with building a new arena, but Sias’ proposal had enough support to pass. More from the Augusta Chronicle:
“Those ballots should have been scratched because it was an indecisive vote,” [Commissioner Andrew Jefferson] said.
Jefferson also noted that the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted against the current site recently and said that vote should be respected. Some people might not like the outcome of that vote, “but that is no reason to slap them on the wrist and take their power from them by giving them an ultimatum,” he said, adding that the commissioners were becoming “dictators.”
[Commissioner Wayne] Guilfoyle said he would like to see a vote not to pursue a new arena at all.
“It’s a dead issue to me as well as a lot of people I talk to,” he said. But ultimately the commission voted that it would fund a new arena only at the current site, with Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis and commissioners Dennis Williams, Ben Hasan, Sean Frantom, Grady Smith and Sias in favor.
The aging condition of James Brown Arena, which originally opened in 1980, has contributed to the ongoing discussions about a new arena. May’s vote was technically nonbinding, and some officials have questioned whether the results were thrown off because voters had the option of selecting yes to both sites or no to both sites.
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