Arena honchos won’t face the music

Shifting terms in closed-door meetings keeps the public at bay

It’s easier to get a backstage pass at a rock concert than it is to get into the discussion over the future of the James Brown Arena.

 

The Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority held a closed-door, public-not-invited meeting this past week to further chat about its purely awful 4-2 vote in August to locate a new arena at the site of the blighted Regency Mall.

Talk about adding insult to injury. This city’s leaders, to include Mayor Hardie Davis, just flat don’t care what you think about what they do, and they have no inclination to let you watch them do it.

At least you’re in good company: The mayor and four members of the Coliseum Authority didn’t much care what the experts thought, either, when paid consultants concluded the Regency Mall site was no better than third place on the list of possible locations for a new $100 million-plus arena.

Meanwhile, proposed terms of the deal keep changing behind the scenes as fast as a curbside shell game. The latest offer from the New York owners includes “gifting” the Montgomery Ward portion of the mall in exchange for 25 years of no taxes and low-interest financing on redevelopment of surrounding property.

We’re not sure why these deliberations are occurring in secret, since everyone in the 13-county area knows full well the Regency site is being contemplated.

Whose arena will this be, anyway? Whose community is it?

Could it be that those pushing the Regency site realize how unpopular it is on the street — and they just don’t want to face the music? Do they want to avoid public input until it’s too late to change course?

Maybe they know how indefensible the decision is. Moving the arena from an increasingly bustling downtown, which offers all the amenties arenas need, to a blighted area miles away may be the mayor’s idea of social engineering — hoping it inspires additional development, even though arenas are dark much of the year.

But it’s a risk he’s willing to take. With your money.

 

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