AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – On the surface, it was a casual Wednesday at the James Brown Arena. But underneath, the Coliseum Authority went back to the drawing board.
“We’re not looking at this as rejection. We’re looking at it as an opportunity to do it better and so we’ll be taking a very positive approach. Committee is still at work. This committee is still together and we’re back at the table,” said new arena committee chairman Brad Usry.
Richmond County voters made it loud and clear after Tuesday’s referendum, out of the near 12,800 votes, more than 7,700 people said no to paying more taxes to fund the new JBA.
Colsieum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said, “A tremendously low turn out in some areas then you had 20%-25% in some areas so again it was a surprise. It was still a low turn out when you average it out.”
Coliseum Authority members believe most Augustans do not oppose the new arena itself, rather they voted against the way it would be funded.
“Now we’re looking at how can rectify those things and bring the arena back on the books,” explained Johnson.
About $20 million from SPLOST is already secured to build a new JBA. According to Usry, some of the money has been spent.
He said, “For design and engineering. The balance, we’re just going to be very methodical on how we approach this. We’re also going to engage the community to make sure the next time we put this package together it passes, overwhelmingly.”
New arena organizers told NewsChannel 6’s Wes Cooper Tuesday’s referendum is a lesson learned but it’s too early to say when voters could see a new JBA item on a ballot.
Usry added, “We’re going to talk to some folks, how it’s done in other cities. How buildings like this are built in other municipalities. Everything is on the table.”
At least the JBA won’t be closed for 30 months anytime soon for construction. The arena’s next visitor is comedian Gabriel Iglesias this Friday.