Voters turn down James Brown Arena bond in election

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 9:38 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The results are officially in for the new James Brown Arena project, and it was a pretty decisive “no,” with 7,754 voters turning down the project while 5,080 said “yes.”

It might be old, obsolete, and outdated, but the James Brown Arena is sticking around a little longer.

“We’re definitely disappointed. I mean, we’ve been working on this for five-plus years and we were hoping for a better outcome, but we can appreciate the people’s vote,” said Brad Usry, Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority vice chairman.

Richmond County voters said “no” to issuing a bond of up to $240 million paid for by a property tax increase to break ground on a new James Brown Arena. Which means a new arena is not happening anytime soon.

“It’s world-class and we want to bring it into fruition it’s just a matter of putting the package together right so the people in Richmond County can accept that,” Usry said.

On Tuesday, 12,834 people made it to the polls. That’s about 9 percent of all Richmond County voters, and 60 percent of those votes were a “no.”

There’s already $25 million in SPLOST money set aside for this project. Right now, that will sit in the bank. Officials need about $235 million more to make it happen.

“It’s a challenge for people to vote to increase your own taxes,” Usry said.

So now that it’s failed, what happens next?

The Coliseum Authority has already spent about $18 million on arena plans. They say none of that will go to waste but it will take time to figure out the next step. Designs will remain the same, although they might have to make upgrades.

“I do think we’ve heard from the community they like the design they just didn’t like the finance package, so we just need to work on that find other funding mechanisms and we’re gonna do that,” Usry said.

The authority says each year a new arena is delayed, the price will increase by 3 to 5 percent. But a new arena isn’t a matter of “if.” It’s just a matter of when and how it gets paid for. And so the current James Brown Arena will continue hosting events and shows. But the Coliseum Authority can try to put the bond request on the ballot again in the future.

On Wednesday, the Coliseum Authority is holding a special meeting about the arena. It will begin at 3 p.m. in Rooms A and B of the arena. We will let you know what comes out of that.

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