AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Election Day in Richmond County means it’s decision day for the proposed, new James Brown Arena.
Voters had one question on the ballot. And many knew before they walked into the the polling center whether they wanted to be taxed for a new arena or not.
“Augusta is what the second largest city in the state. We need a, what class act, is that a good word, arena,” said voter Betty Tutt.
Eric Cowart, another voter added, “I’m against an increase in taxes. They increased property taxes this year to the level that’s ludicrous. It’s a big no.”
Yes or No. Those were the only answers voters selected for the sole question on the ballot in Richmond County. Despite being voted down in 2021, the Augusta Coliseum Authority called for the question again; a half cent sales and use tax in order to raise more than $433 million for coliseum projects, notably, the James Brown Arena.
NewsChannel 6’s Brad Means sat down with Brad Usry, Vice Chair of the Augusta Coliseum Authority for The Means Report this week. Usry explained why a new arena is needed.
“It’s functionally obsolete. We don’t have the rigging capacity to hang the shows that are traveling today. We don’t have the seating capacity to get the shows Augusta deserves. We don’t have the backstage amenities that artists deserve.”
“Beyoncé. Taylor Swift. Both of them attract a large crowd of fans. I’d like to see both of them. Plays. Tyler Perry has really good plays,” Tutt said.
“We’ve lost three major shows in the last few years,” Usry said. “Lionel Richie, Carrie Underwood, Dave Matthews Band. Those were all going to come here? They all wanted to travel to Augusta. And it wasn’t seating capacity. It was the rigging capacity. The ability to hold the weight of the shows.”
Usry also told us the more than 40 year old arena seats around 6,000 or 7,000. A new place would offer 10,500 seats, he said.
“I think it’s time that everybody pay a percentage toward the betterment of Augusta,” said Patricia Kamody, a voter.
Voter John McCormick added, “We have to stay on a budget. They don’t feel like they have to stay on a budget? If they want to, they can save their money. They can have their events at the arena they have now and then they can save their money.”
Poll workers said voter turn out was steady. Polls close at 7 o’clock Tuesday and we will be awaiting results.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps