Bell Auditorium to stay open as new James Brown Arena built

Published: Jun. 22, 2021 at 11:21 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We have an update in the plans to build the new James Brown Arena. On Tuesday afternoon, leaders decided they will be able to keep the Bell Auditorium open during the construction of the new JBA. That’s a big deal, because once work starts on the new JBA, Augusta’s biggest entertainment venue will be shut down until the construction wraps up.

That’s going to be a lot of construction in a very tight area. How will it work?

City leaders weren’t sure the auditorium could even stay open. Could it still operate safely with all the construction next door at James Brown Arena? Today we got an answer.

“We will never shut it down,” said Brad Usry, Coliseum Authority vice chairman.

Usry just got his hands on the plans. The plan is to keep the Bell Auditorium open for the entire two and a half years the James Brown Arena is closed for construction.

“It’s just a matter of keeping the Bell open as long as we can, and keep folks safe when they come to shows at the Bell,” said Ursy.

The existing James Brown Arena will be demolished and replaced with a new arena at the current location. Once that demolition starts the Bell will be the only source of income for the Augusta Entertainment Complex.

“We need revenue, we want to keep revenue coming as much as we can, because this is taxpayer’s money, we want to make sure we stay in the black as long as we can,” he said.

The Bell will also be under construction during this project. The plan calls for the existing auditorium to get connected to the new arena and a new entrance is also planned. Usry says construction at the Bell will happen when it’s not hosting shows. And even with all the construction at the arena nearby he thinks the Bell will still be safe.

“They’ve made it extremely safe, so it will be a construction zone around the JBA, but there’ll also be an area that’ll be safe for patrons and vehicular traffic, as well as parking,” he said.

In two weeks, the Coliseum Authority will meet to vote on a resolution for the bond referendum. If voters approve that referendum in November, it will give millions more to this project.

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