Voters have approved new James Brown Arena: What’s next?

Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 6:33 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2023 at 11:24 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - More than 10,000 Richmond County voters decided it’s time for a new James Brown Arena.

They approved a half-penny sales tax to build it and when work begins on the two buildings, the JBA and the Bell Auditorium will be under one roof.

Leaders are already looking to bid on big events when the arena opens in 2026, from live acts to NCAA basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and even wrestling.

“It allows us to compete with other cities and venues that are our size, which we didn’t have the opportunity to do before,” said CEO of the Augusta Sports Council Michelle Pippin.


Bids are already being prepped for D2 and D3 NCAA championships to play past the 2026 opening.

Beyond that, with the World Cup coming to Atlanta in 2026, the new JBA could be just the right fit for outside events or even a practice field for competitors.

“I just had a baby seven weeks ago and to think that he’ll be three years old and maybe be able to see a championship that mom and her team brought, that’s pretty cool. You know? You can’t make that kind of story line up,” said Pippin.

While the ambition is large, local teams like Augusta University basketball are also excited.

They’d love to host championships and the stadium would also be great for their “Education Day”, which introduces thousands of local fifth graders to the Jags.

“Our dream, kind of before COVID, was to put it down at the arena so that it combines all of it. So now that we’re getting a new arena, I know it’s not here this year or next year, that’s something we could do,” said Basketball Head Coach Dip Metress.

The possibilities are endless.

“This is huge for our city, for the area. You know, we’re the second largest city in Georgia and we needed a new arena,” said Metress.

Pippin says the imagination and anticipation are even greater for who will win out in a competitive bid to be the first act to fill the brand-new space.

The NCAA bids are due in February and we could find out by October of next year what the 2026 to 2028 slate could look like for college sports in Augusta.

People are also excited about ice hockey potentially being back in Augusta.

Sean Frantom, District 7 commissioner, said: “The quality of life just enhanced significantly in Augusta. I mean, we’re attracting businesses, they’re looking for that quality of life. When you look at people that put their hard-earned money into downtown, the business owners, this is just going to enhance the opportunity and the foot traffic that they’re going to have.”

After Tuesday’s win, voters are ready for more wins inside the arena.

John Whitwell, former Augusta LYNX hockey player, said: “It was like scoring a goal, you know, I was excited to put my arms up in the air. And you know, it was just a great feeling. I know myself, I’ve been working on this for the last two and a half years. So last night was just a great moment for the city.”

He played hockey for the Augusta LYNX, Augusta’s old minor league team when he moved in 1998. Now 25 years later, he’s excited for the chance to be back on the ice.

“We have a commitment from a group that will put hockey here again. They’ve got a successful track record with four other franchises and ECHL and they want to put a team here again,” said Whitwell.

It is about a $10 million private investment into our local arena, giving Whitwell a chance to pass on the knowledge of what he does best.

“The thing I’m most excited about is we’ll have a community rink that will come to town as well for the team to practice. And everybody else can use it for youth hockey, figure skating, and all that, and I’ll be able to get back into coaching. And I love working with kids. And, you know, to me that that’s the most fun part is teaching the game to the next generation,” he said.

But if sports aren’t your thing, the arena will offer more options.

Frantom said: “The possibilities are endless that we could have any big show that you can think of happening in Augusta, Georgia once this arena is done.”

It’s making the opportunities for what could come to Augusta limitless.

“This new arena is opening up, you know, possibilities that we didn’t have before. It’s not just concerts, it’s not just hockey, it’s other events, you know, how cool would it be to have a like NCAA basketball, you know, regional in Augusta, Georgia, I think it’d be fantastic,” said Whitwell.