Commissioners focus on future after voters decide James Brown Arena's fate

Commissioners focus on future after voters decide James Brown Arena's fate
Sugarland to perform; Source: WFXG

RICHMOND COUNTY, GA (WFXG) - The people of Augusta have spoken. Thousands think the James Brown Arena (JBA) should stay in the heart of downtown.

The controversial topic has been on Richmond City Council's agenda for months. Commissioner Marion Williams is passionate about it but he doesn't feel good about Tuesday's election results.

"The site is just the perfect site, man. It's so much confusion."

Commissioner Williams wants to see the arena moved to the site of the old Regency Mall.

"I think the people voted from the information they had. I think they were misled."

He doesn't think the JBA represents the Godfather of Soul as it should.

"There's only one sign outside that says James Brown Arena. Zero inside, zero upstairs, zero in the basement. No pictures, nothing."

Commissioner Williams said the location of the JBA, between two railroad tracks, isn't ideal. Parking's a problem, too.

"We can keep the JBA downtown - between the two railroad tracks where there's no parking. Where you have to tear that one down to build another one at if you build a bigger one. You still won't have ample parking to host the people you're going to build it for," Williams said.

District 7 Commissioner Sean Frantom disagrees. He said there's never been a parking issue.

"I mean, there's properties around there that probably purchasing could probably be an option. I think when you have Uber and Lyft, as well as golf carts. We're gonna have some new things downtown, more hotels where people will Uber or take a golf cart possibly to the shows. I think the opportunities there - we're talking three to five years at least - and you're gonna see more growth and opportunities for parking. I'm not worried about the parking aspect of it," Commissioner Frantom said.

Since the Regency Mall site is off the table for now, Commissioner Frantom said the ball is in the Coliseum Authority's court.

"It's ultimately up to them, with us supporting them. They'll be the lead on the project. They've got to decide what the funding options are because at the end of the day, the taxpayers and the people of Richmond County are going to have to help fund this," said Frantom.

Both commissioners are focused on moving forward with Regency Mall site and the JBA.

"Movie studios have been talked about, parks have been talked about. What's best for the community to get more traffic down there so we can see some growth in that area?" said Frantom about the mall.

Commissioner Williams' research has led him to a larger vision that pays homage to the late music icon James Brown. He said since a majority of constituents don't want to move the JBA, he's got another idea for the old mall.

"It wasn't about getting away from downtown.  Since we don't want to build it - and I respect the voters. Since the voter's majority say don't build it at Regency Mall, then let's build a James Brown Museum and create a tourist destination for Augusta," Commissioner Williams said.

The Coliseum Authority will vote on what happens next for the JBA. Then, commissioners will have to vote on that decision.

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