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Hundreds participate in early voting for James Brown Arena project

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 11:19 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The plans make it seem like it’s a done deal, but the new James Brown Arena project is anything but.

It still needs your approval to make it a reality.

And so far 696 people have shown up early to vote. Officials say in the last special election, only 68 people voted early.

So there is a lot of interest, but not all of it is positive.

Some voters say there are more pressing issues that need to be handled around Augusta before this new arena. We spoke with the man who started the “Vote No” campaign as well as members of the Coliseum Authority.

Authority officials say they’ve worked extremely hard on this project and you can see they have the designs to prove it. But not everyone agrees this is where so much effort and money from the city should be going.

“Between now and Nov. 2, we’re going to talk to as many people that uh have any questions about it and do as we can to try and convince them otherwise,” Brad Usry, Coliseum Authority vice chairman.

But Michael Thurman says they can’t change his mind.

“Ultimately, please vote no,” he said.

He’s one of 696 others who have already cast their votes. Thurman believes the money could be better spent.

“Our grass that is overgrown, our houses that are boarded up and falling down — we need to do more of the core stuff. It’s very much like not having a job and going to buy a new car anyway. We really just can’t afford it right now,” he said.

And he says the cost shouldn’t fall entirely on taxpayers.

“Be involved when they start discussing other ways of financing this and talk to friends in Columbia County and AU and let’s get some of the costs off of the taxpayers of Richmond County,” he said.

You get to vote whether to pay for the $240 million bond to develop the arena. So if your Richmond County home costs $100,000, you would pay around $100 more in property taxes a year.

“Because I’m going to be paying that money just for the privilege of buying a ticket of seeing an event and that’s just a whole lot to ask of me or you,” he said.

But the Coliseum Authority says this will bring new experience, tourism, and a future to Augusta.

“We only have one chance to do this and we want to do it right and we gotta do it right and it’s going to be a regional draw for Augusta,” he said.

Friday is the last day to mail in your absentee ballots. You can still vote early in person Friday or Saturday. And starting Oct. 25, there will be three locations to vote early in person. Otherwise, Election Day happens Nov. 2.

JAMES BROWN ARENA FINAL DESIGN PLANS:

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