AUGUSTA (WJBF) — The Augusta Coliseum Authority voted Tuesday to move the James Brown Arena from downtown to south Augusta at the site of the old Regency Mall.
This comes after the city spent the last several months with plans to demolish the JBA and build a newer and bigger one in the same location.
In 2001, the Regency Mall lost its final anchor store, Montgomery Ward.
Soon after, the smaller stores closed their doors and since then, developers and city officials have been trying to figure out what to do with the abandoned building.
But now, there’s a push to turn the old mall into Augusta’s new civic center.
Augusta city leaders seem to be split on the proposal to move the James Brown Arena to the Regency Mall though.
“Shocked and disappointed. Don’t understand why we would want to move the arena out of downtown Augusta when we are starting to thrive as a community,” Commissioner Sean Frantom said.
“I always thought that the Regency Mall site was a good site for the Coliseum because of the parking lots that we have,” Commissioner Dennis Williams said.
Consultants have been pushing for the new arena to be located where the JBA currently stands.
“The site analysis that we have been given, there was only three points difference between it (the Regency Mall) and the existing site,” Coliseum Authority Member Darren Smith said.
The board members who voted in favor of the Regency Mall site say the current one in downtown Augusta won’t work for a 12,000 seat venue.
“There are buildings around it. Nowhere to expand. Nowhere for any economic development. It’s also surrounded by railroad tracks,” Smith said.
But Commissioner Sean Frantom says the city should do what the experts pitched.
“Keep it where it is. Let’s put in a kitchen and combine the buildings together. We have a restaurant scene that’s kicking. We have breweries happening,” Frantom said.
The Regency Mall proposal would give the city 39 acres to build on.
The property owner says he will lease the land for 35 years at $1.00 a year.
“With all the economic development opportunities out at Regency Mall and all the available land for development, we felt like it was an opportunity to really change that corridor around,” Smith said.
The “SAVE THE J” campaign has been started on social media to prevent this move from happening.
It should be noted that the Coliseum Authority’s vote is just a recommendation, meaning the full Augusta Commission will have to vote on this matter before the project moves forward.