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New Pensacola Arena Proposal Resurfaces

New Pensacola Arena site concept

A development group is reviving its new Pensacola arena proposal, pitching the venue as part of a larger redevelopment of the Pensacola Bay Center site.

In 2017, Pensacola Arena Development Partners (PADP)–a group formed by local hotelier Jay Patel–began pitching a new arena and adjacent field house as part of a mixed-use development. The proposal stalled in 2018 because of issues with securing federal tax credits, but PADP put the idea back up for discussion by presenting revised plans to the Escambia County Tourist Development Council (TDC) on Monday.

Under the current scope, the $80-million project would include a 6,500-seat arena and an 80,000-square-foot field house. Those facilities would be constructed over existing parking at Pensacola Bay Center, which would remain operational until the new venues are completed. Once construction concludes, the Pensacola Bay Center would be torn down to make way for a new parking garage and possible commercial development.

The plans remain a proposal at this point, as there will be plenty of consideration about funding before a decision is made on whether it will move forward. More from the Pensacola News Journal:

[International Coliseums Co. CEO Rick] Kozuback said under the updated financing for the project, the county would pay about $2.8 million a year for 30 years to fund the project. The county has traditionally paid about $1.3 million in an operations subsidy for the Bay Center, as well as $1.5 million for the debt payment on the Bay Center….

Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill, who is also a board member of the TDC, said he likes the design of the proposal, but it will come down to the finances.

“What you’re thinking about building looks great,” Underhill said Monday. “It’s the spreadsheet stuff, not the PowerPoint part, that I’m struggling with as I have been since the beginning of this conversation.”

Kozuback said the benefit of the plan, as opposed to the county financing a new arena itself, is the private companies would be responsible for managing the facility and if there is a shortfall, the county would not be on the hook for any losses.

There has been plenty of debate in recent years among local officials over potentially replacing Pensacola Bay Center, an aging facility that first opened in 1985, but no plans have moved forward thus far.

Rendering courtesy Pensacola Arena Development Partners.

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