Final design for the new James Brown Arena revealed as referendum vote looms

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A lot of people in Augusta are feeling good. A vote to build a new arena downtown is on the horizon.

“Between now and November 2nd we’re going to talk to as many people that have any questions about it and do as we can and try to convince them,” said New Arena Committee Chairman Brad Usry.

Learn more about the new James Brown Arena

In a little more than a week, the fate of the new JBA will be in the hands of Richmond County voters. It will be decided whether to approve a new “tax” to pay for bonds that are funding the new arena.

“It’s a complex, it’s an event. People go just for the experience sometimes. I’ve been to shows where people don’t even sit and watch the show. They’re just socializing at an event,” said Perkins+Will Architect Michael Harvey.

Harvey told NewsChannel 6’s Wes Cooper he has built high-quality arenas all over the world. He and his team are hoping to do that in the Garden City.

Harvey said, “Cutting down the long lines and all that, people want much better, greater experience when they go to events than they did 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years ago.”

The new JBA will be about 100 feet tall, seat 11,000 people, and have many premium box seats. There will be plenty of green space around the arena and it will be connected to the Bell Auditorium. Ursy said committee the Bell’s outside appearance won’t change but the inside will be upgraded extensively such as the bathrooms.

Usry explained, “It’s a money maker for us but now we’re going to add some amenities that we needed and it’s going to be ADA compliant. Right now it’s not even ADA compliant.”

The November 2 referendum to approve the new tax adds up to about an extra hundred dollars a year on your bill for every hundred thousand dollars your house is worth. Some are encouraging people to vote no.

“We only have one chance to do this and we want to do it right. We got to do it right. It’s going to be a regional draw for Augusta,” added Usry.

Developers said they are keeping a close watch on the cost of building materials and believe they will be lower near the start of construction for the new JBA. According to Usry if everything is approved, the JBA will be closed for about 30 months and the Bell for about a year.

It’s hoped to complete the new arena by 2024.

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