Update on arena negotiations leaves questions

Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority members heard an update from authority attorney Ed Enoch on communications with Phillip Cardinale, attorney for the family that owns Regency Mall. SUSAN MCCORD/STAFF

A report on negotiations with the family that owns Regency Mall to build a new arena there drew a mixed response Tuesday.

 

Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority Chairman Cedric Johnson said the presentation by its attorney Ed Enoch left “many unanswered questions,” while member Darren Smith, who is leading the authority’s effort to build at Regency, said it includes changes that may make the deal more palatable to opponents.

The public was not allowed to hear the presentation after the authority voted to close the meeting, under protest by Vice Chairman Brad Usry who said it had already made its site selection public.

Usry and Johnson back a site selection committee’s recommendation that the aging James Brown Arena be replaced with another structure downtown rather than at the vacant mall.

Enoch told the authority it would be unwise to discuss what might be a “counteroffer” to the Cardinale family with the public present, although members said no counteroffer was made Tuesday.

“It’s just continuing negotiations with this family, and I hope we’re the only people negotiating,” Usry said. “Downtown still seems to be the best location to me.”

Local real estate broker Carolyn Deaner, who has the mall property listed on Loopnet, said the listing’s price of $63 million is what the Cardinales want to owner-finance for the mall tract.

Mayor Hardie Davis, who did not attend the authority meeting, negotiated Alan Cardinale’s initial proposal, a 35-year lease of 39 acres upon which the authority would build an arena, upgrade parking and pay most expenses. The proposal drew opposition from the Augusta Commission on enhancing property the city doesn’t own, but a majority of commissioners now say they support the site choice.

Smith had the letter from Cardinale to Davis in hand when the authority voted 4-2 in August to build at Regency. He would not disclose changes that made the deal better Tuesday but said the site remains the best option due to its location on a major intersection at U.S. 1 and Gordon Highway.

“I would hope this would be a regional project and draw from all around,” Smith said.

Johnson said Tuesday the authority still awaits a final offer from Cardinale, though he does not support the site for an arena. “I always thought it should be downtown,” based on a site selection study and ongoing synergy with other downtown development projects, he said.

Reach Susan McCord at (706) 823-2315 or susan.mccord@augustachronicle.com.

 

More