AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – Finding a new address for the James Brown arena has been in the works for three years, but Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson says the public reaction to last week’s decision wasn’t in the plans.
“No George, not the way we envisioned it and not in the way that we had it set up to happen,” said Johnson.
What happened was the Authority voted in favor of putting the Arena at Regency Mall, after first voting to put it downtown.
Right before the vote, the mall’s owners sent the Mayor a letter saying they would lease land at Regency for the arena at one dollar a year, the letter arriving the day of the site selection vote.
“George I had no interaction with that letter at all until the meeting and then at the end of the meeting I requested to get a copy of the letter,’ said Johnson.
But the vote had already been taken?
“The vote had already been taken,” said Johnson.
The selection of Regency has divided the community.
“This is a fight that definitely could have been handled better, it’s put south Augusta versus the entire community,” said Commissioner Sean Frantom.
Was this handled properly?
“Well that’s our mayor, that’s the way he does things, that’s him. I don’t agree with that,” said Commissioner Marion Williams.
But the mayor says do not blame him for the arena site stumbling out of the blocks.
“I would submit to you that the overall handling of this process to the degree I know very little pieces of it could have and should have been handled differently. I levy that at the feet of the Chairman and Vice Chairman,” said Mayor Davis.
Are you to blame for what has happened here?
“Not at all, not at all George, I’m not sure why he said that because he actually had the letter. We tried to get information from him. We were not able to obtain that information,” said Johnson.
Johnson says the Regency Mall wasn’t even on the list of proposed sites until the Mayor requested the authority also consider it.
Johnson says the mayor was in on meetings and new more than just bits and pieces of the selection process and says the mayor had even endorsed at one time putting the arena downtown.