Augusta Commission Rejects Regency Mall Arena Proposal
The downtown Augusta business community’s “Save the J” campaign received the news it’s been waiting for as seven Augusta commissioners rejected the proposed plan to build a new James Brown Arena at Regency Mall on a re-vote on Tuesday, the Augusta Chronicle reported.
The vote came soon after a 5-5 tie that Mayor Hardie Davis broke in favor of moving forward with the Regency Mall location. Davis has championed the relocation of the arena to Regency Mall as a project that would economically and socially revive south Augusta.
The proposal to move forward with the deal offered by mall owner Cardinal Management, which involved gifting a 10-acre tract to the city for a 12,000- to 15,000-seat arena but allowed the New York-based company to retain the other 62 acres, was approved last week by the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority and went to the Augusta Commission for a vote.
However, following a motion to re-vote after commissioner Bill Hasan said his vote in favor of the proposal was accidental, seven commissioners voted against the proposal.
Davis said that the 7-1 vote left some room for continued negotiations about locating the new arena at the old mall.
Others are doubtful, as commissioners continue to express concerns with the Regency Mall location and the terms of the deal laid out by Cardinal Management.
Coliseum Authority Chairman Brad Usry said last week that the authority would move on to another location if the Commission rejected the proposal.
In an interview with Buzz on Biz in September, Usry pointed out that 95-97 percent of recently built arenas have been or are being built in downtowns, and the 3-5 percent of venues that aren’t being built in downtown areas are in cities that have a million or more people in the area.
“This arena needs to be built for 18, 25, 30-year-olds. That’s who it’s going to be for, and they love downtowns. Malls aren’t sexy anymore to Millennials,” Usry said.
Other downtown business leaders, including restaurant owner Sean Wight (Frog Hollow, Craft and Vine, Farmhaus) and Whiskey Bar general manager Josh Pierce, expressed concern that the James Brown Arena would be hurt by the lack of business and infrastructure around the Regency Mall, especially when compared to Augusta’s growing downtown.
“Whether or not a civic center at the Regency Mall site floats or sinks – that depends on the support around it,” Pierce said. “If there’s not much there, I’m worried about it to begin with.”
Larry Sconyers of Sconyer’s Barbecue in south Augusta said he believed that a new arena could thrive in a variety of locations throughout the city–including Regency Mall–but said that the deal Cardinal had offered the city was a poor one.
“No smart businessman would do that, and I wouldn’t either,” Sconyers said.