What’s ahead for James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium?

Some new developments could bring more changes for the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium in downtown Augusta.
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 2:00 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Some new developments could bring more changes for the James Brown Arena and Bell Auditorium in downtown Augusta.

Local leaders suffered a defeat last year when voters turned down the final $235 million needed to finish a transformation project for the arena.

But now the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority and Augusta Commission are working together on a new SPLOST plan, hoping voters will be on board for a new James Brown Arena.

This time around, leaders are offering up the same design and same new features.

But instead of a higher property tax bill, they want to help fund the improvements with sales tax money.

Some downtown businesses say they are ready.

“Make more money, get our name out there,” said Jacy Goslin of the Noble Jones restaurant. “You know, it’s just good for and it’s kind of nice to see the community like, just, you know, in a more relaxed atmosphere.”

Goslin says more foot traffic means a little more jingle in his pockets

“We do get some extra business from people coming in to like shows and stuff,” Goslin said. “So always nice to like, talk to people about like, what they were doing, like, get a little taste of the city.”

With renovations already underwayon the Bell Auditorium next door it’ll be up to voters to decide whether it’s time to bring the James Brown Arena into the future.

“In works for the JBA, we will have to have a referendum passed,” said Cedric Johnson of the Coliseum Authority. “We met with our legislative delegation who will basically spearhead that going through the state.”

But before you can vote, the plan to fund it must pass through the state Legislature and get Gov. Brian Kemp’s approval.

Johnson says there is a plus to what they’re calling the coliseum special purpose sales tax, or C-SPLOST for short.

“Anybody that buys anything, and it goes to Richmond County, will pay that half a percent,” Johnson said. “And right now, it’s between 30 and 35% of the people that we get revenue from are from outside of Richmond County.”

Johnson says the arena needs the improvements and he’s hoping voters will like this plan better.

“If people see progress, and they see progress and what we’ve done with the Bell,” he said, “they will be more apt to want to go ahead and see the whole complex completed.”

Next door at the Bell ...

Meanwhile, some adjustments were made Thursday in renovations to the Bell Auditorium.

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, which oversees the arena and auditorium, met Thursday to look at changes at the Bell.

The timeline for construction completion has changed. It will now begin April 1 in an effort to expand construction of the auditorium lobby and club-level room.

The expansion will be 5,000 square feet and two stories that overlook Telfair Street.

Renovations of other features, including the green room, will begin July 21.

The goal is for the auditorium to be officially complete by May 2024.

Also approved Thursday were sprinkler installations for the full venue, plus special inspection and testing of construction materials.

The safety considerations come a few weeks after an employee at the arena died after being exposed to a gas in an apparent leak he’d discovered in in air system.