Voters approve sales tax for new James Brown Arena

Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 7:47 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2023 at 9:58 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Richmond County voters decided a new James Brown Arena is worth it.

They cast ballots on the matter Tuesday for the second time in two years, approving a half-penny sales tax to pay for the new venue.

As of late Tuesday, it was passing with 66% “yes” votes and 34% “no” votes.

“It’s been a long road. It’s been a relay race. Like I said, going through the legislature to get it to a vote, to going through the public to educate the people so they would get out and vote. I feel really good about our team because we got double the number of voters that the board of electors thought we would get. And to get this mandate again it’s just a special night. It’s great for Augusta, Georgia,” said Brad Usry, vice chair of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority.

Although a handful of votes were still out, Richmond County Board of Elections Executive Director Travis Doss said the lead appeared unsurmountable.

Last year, voters rejected a plan to pay for the new arena, which local leaders call crucial for attracting economy-boosting events. It would have been funded by a bond of up to $240 million paid for by a property tax increase.

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This time around, a sales tax was proposed to fund a replacement for the dated arena. It took a special state law to allow this type of vote.

Leaders tried to sell it by noting that much of the sales tax will be paid by people who don’t live in Richmond County but who shop here.

Support hasn’t been unanimous for the so-called C-SPLOST tax.

Although civic leaders and many businesses have been solidly behind the plan, there were plenty of signs along roadways urging voters to say no.

“We can get 40% plus outside of Richmond County to pay for the arena, and we think that’s a real plus for the community,” said Usry.

Opponents said that on top of not wanting more taxes, they couldn’t trust the current government to get the job done.

“We can’t cut our grass. We have a lot of dilapidated buildings. We’re 250 police officers short. I could go on forever, and I just think there are better ways of doing it. And I think we should do it when we can afford to do it,” opponent Michael Thurman said.

Construction on a new arena could start in the middle of next year, about a 2½-year project aiming to finish in 2026.