Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Michaux: Is outdated James Brown Arena really worth the trouble?

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This is not about whether Augusta needs a hockey franchise.

The Augusta RiverHawks take to the ice at James Brown Arena, something they will not be doing in the 2013-14 SPHL season.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
The Augusta RiverHawks take to the ice at James Brown Arena, something they will not be doing in the 2013-14 SPHL season.

This is not about the merits of Global Spectrum’s management of James Brown Arena.

This is not about political infighting or taxpayer apathy.

This is just about discussing what direction the greater Augusta area wants to go and what it might take to get there.

The announcement Tuesday by Augusta RiverHawks owner Bob Kerzner that his franchise would take a one-year leave of absence from the Southern Professional Hockey League was just a conversation starter. Kerzner took that unfortunate step because arena officials have not yet addressed replacing the broken ice-making system, which forced the RiverHawks to play their final eight home games at the Augusta Ice Sports Center.

Since insurance won’t cover the cost of a new ice system, this seems to be the perfect time to discuss what it is Augusta really wants in an arena. Does it want to continue along maintaining a 33-year-old facility in million dollar increments, or does it want to build a modern new multi-purpose arena that can serve its citizens for decades to come?

This is what needs to be discussed as a community, just as you would with your own family.

Consider your car. It’s paid for and is getting up there in mileage. Then the transmission goes. Do you want to spend a few thousand dollars on a rebuilt transmission to keep the car going until the next inevitable major repair? Or do you decide to take on another car payment to get a new vehicle that you can reasonably rely on for the next 6-10 years under warranty?

This is where we are now with James Brown Arena. A new ice system isn’t cheap. Probably in the neighborhood of $1 million or more. A working ice system is required to sustain a hockey franchise or attract popular events like Disney On Ice.

So the folks in charge of James Brown Arena have a costly decision to make. And perhaps it’s time for the community to be part of the process instead of just leaving it in the hands of Global Spectrum and the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority.

How do you want to spend the money?

Personally, public financing of major sports arenas has never been a popular option. Too often it merely serves the vanity and wallet of the primary tenant.

For instance, it seems ridiculous that Atlanta is spending a large fortune to help build billionaire Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons a gaudy new stadium when the perfectly good Georgia Dome isn’t even old enough to legally drink.

That seems excessive and unnecessary, but Atlanta officials have decided the possibility of losing the Falcons to some other city willing to build Blank a new temple is too much to risk.

Augusta is a different animal altogether. The second largest city in Georgia has only one major-league franchise – the Masters Tournament – and Augusta National Golf Club takes care of itself just fine. There is no minor-league arena tenant with the potential of lining his or her pockets at the public’s expense.

But Augusta and the surrounding communities need a viable and appealing multi-use facility. It is a civic necessity to attract and feature the kind of events – concerts, tournaments, conventions, etc. – that make a community a great place to live.

Augusta-Richmond County voters in 2004 rejected extending a special purpose local option sales tax that could have funded a local arena project. Columbia County officials considered and tabled their own arena discussions.

Augusta also consistently shot down overtures to build a new downtown baseball stadium, ultimately sending the project to be built as part of an ambitious complex across the river in North Augusta.

James Brown Arena is almost 10 years older than it was the last time voters rejected replacing it. The world has changed a lot since 1980 when it first opened and facility requirements have advanced as well – both from the tenant and fan perspective.

I don’t presume to know the answer, only the question. Augusta needs to talk about what it wants – either build something that the community deserves or kick the can down the road until the current arena gets closer to 50 years old and deeper into retirement age. And if not Richmond County, then Columbia County or North Augusta should discuss amongst themselves.

Eventually, somebody needs to step up and make a decision that will serve the best interests of everyone.

Comments (38)

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Gage Creed
12341
Points
Gage Creed 05/18/13 - 08:50 pm
4
1

Kinda makes one wonder why

Kinda makes one wonder why all these questions were not brought to light when there were $5 million dollars of upgrades done to the JBA in the last couple of years.... (that's one heckuva transmission)

Dixieman
10350
Points
Dixieman 05/18/13 - 10:26 pm
2
2

Is this a trick question?

The answer is....um.
No?
Only answer: Tear it down, sow the earth with salt, and build something better.

Riverman1
70396
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Riverman1 05/18/13 - 09:56 pm
7
1

Public Financing

"Personally, public financing of major sports arenas has never been a popular option. Too often it merely serves the vanity and wallet of the primary tenant."

Ummm, remember the TEE Center?

Riverman1
70396
Points
Riverman1 05/18/13 - 09:59 pm
3
1

Hundred Million Dollars

Realize we are talking at least a hundred million dollars. It's going to take a joint effort with Columbia County and possibly Aiken County. As I said previously, include the state, too, and let the symbol formerly known as ASU move up to D-1 basketball.

Old Augusta
233
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Old Augusta 05/19/13 - 01:15 am
5
0

Scott Michaux forgot to research the new Atlanta stadium.

First off, the soon to be built retractable roof stadium in Atlanta is not being built on the backs of taxpayers and Blank never threatened to leave Atlanta. Also, the GA Dome might not be of drinking age, but it is now and will be in need of hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs and upgrades. The Georgia Dome is an antique compared to the new stadiums being built and remember this about Atlanta's convention business...they don't compete against Charlotte & Jacksonville. They compete against Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago. The new stadium will financed almost entirely by out of town visitors through the hotel tax and Blank is throwing in hundreds of millions of his own money. Not a bad deal at all when you consider that Blank and the NFL is but only half the equation. The other half is that Atlanta & the Georgia World Congress Center will get another Super Bowl that they would never ever get again with the old GA Dome due to it's lack of luxury & corporate suites. The commish of the NFL has confirmed this fact. Atlanta is now in the running for the FIFA World Cup which is the largest sporting event in the world. Atlanta is now CONFIRMED to have the Peach Bowl become part of the new BCS college football play offs with a BCS National Championship game. The IOC has already asked Atlanta to submit a new bid for the summer Olympics. None of these things would be possible without the new stadium. The new stadium will have a retractable roof that the old dome didn't have and the new concept I've seen will be iconic and anchor the new tourist area around the Aquarium, World of Coca Cola and soon to be built National College Football Hall of Fame.

Clemintime
177
Points
Clemintime 05/19/13 - 06:51 am
1
0

"Split the Baby"

Engineer, design, fabricate and construct a state of the art modular ice system that can be installed in the JBA now and then removed and reinstalled in a future arena. Contract as much of the CSRA resources as possible to accomplish this venture.

seenitB4
72454
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seenitB4 05/19/13 - 06:59 am
4
0

well now

Old Augusta nailed it....wow thanks

We could clone A Blank & send him your way...:)

seenitB4
72454
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 07:02 am
3
1

Folks ya gotta grow out

Stop dragging your feet....Change the name---connect the name to the Masters somehow...build it along I-20.......stop messing around.

Riverman1
70396
Points
Riverman1 05/19/13 - 07:43 am
3
1

Hotel Tax IS People's Money

I read Arthur Blank will only contribute $50 million. But this idea that the hotel-motel tax is not the people's money is is a peculiar view. Do you think it's simply money to be used for private interests and not carefully allocated for city projects as other tax money is? Of course we heard the same fabrication with the TEE Center. Would Old Augusta also say the county portion of the sales tax is not the people's money? Lastly, the threats of what won't come to a city if the new stadium is not built remind me so much of what we heard here with the TEE. I don't buy any of it.

Riverman1
70396
Points
Riverman1 05/19/13 - 07:51 am
4
1

I'm a Sports Fan

I an enthused by the idea of a big, new arena here because I'm a sports fan. I believe this is something everyone would use now and then, unlike the TEE Center that sits empty most of the time. But the whole problem is this...ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS. Richmond County can't afford it. They are spending SPLOST money that hasn't been approved and the property tax doesn't pay the city bills now. Maybe Columbia County should take a look at this idea again. The county is much bigger than when the proposal was last voteed on and hasn't mortgaged itself to the company store. Maybe THEIR finances could support an arena. Or maybe they could get Richmond to kick in half if it's built in Columbia County off I-20.

nocnoc
30711
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nocnoc 05/19/13 - 07:57 am
3
0

Is the old Augusta Colosseum

Is the old Augusta Colosseum paid off yet?
Has the SPLOST to build it stopped?

Lets finish BOTH before we talk about More taxes and ways to milk the taxpayers for $$$$.

Then let us build the next one in a place OTHER than Downtown.

Like US-1/US-78 Regency Mall area or I-520 and Gordon Hwy

OR even better share it with Columbia Co. and build it up off Wheeler Rd and I-20 in that big open area.

If we are going to go down this path of a New ARC wide funded Civic center, then build it outside the Downtown area.

Remember the 70+% of the taxpayers with $$$$ and have a non Government hand out for an income, DO NOT live downtown?

seenitB4
72454
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 07:56 am
3
0

BUT you willhave to change the name

It doesn't need to be about any 1 person.....nahhhh...it needs to appeal to many.....& not any stupid GRU name either...geez...we should be able to come up with a suitable name....put our heads to gether..

nocnoc
30711
Points
nocnoc 05/19/13 - 08:08 am
2
0

Good Question ....Why not?

Why not Rent the naming rights to cover the annual operating expenses? Of course with some limitations and restrictions?
We don't need the "Excite Center" or The "Trojan Palace".

If not this then just use "The ARC Center" a name with lots of marketing possibilities.

BUT please no politicians names, local yokels, or names of people.

An next time get the parking and the civic center both on the same side of the street. Plus add $1 to the tickets prices to pay for the parking.

seenitB4
72454
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 08:10 am
1
0
justthefacts
17970
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justthefacts 05/19/13 - 08:43 am
3
0

New ATL Stadium

Blank is putting up $800 million. Taxpayers approx $200 million. But, there are tons of unseen money that will be spent. Example, buying out some churche's property and such. At the end of the day, the GA Dome is fine. People attending the Final Four were shocked it was being blown up. But, then again, we've all lost out minds in one way or another.

Riverman1
70396
Points
Riverman1 05/19/13 - 09:50 am
3
1

I saw where some of the seats

I saw where some of the seats will vibrate when a good play happens. Heh, talk about excess. Pay us well for the good seats and we vibrate you. Kind of sounds like the oldest profession.

Old Augusta
233
Points
Old Augusta 05/19/13 - 09:57 am
3
1

Any new arena must have corporate sponsorship

You can forget the words civic center or JBA ever existed. Think Bi-Lo Center in Greenville or Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. I think it's a no brainer that Augusta should have either the E-Z-Go Center or Club Car Center.

Old Augusta
233
Points
Old Augusta 05/19/13 - 10:16 am
3
0

Riverman, Blank is paying 3/4 of the new ATL stadium

I don't know where you heard 50 million. Try about 800 million. The Hotel tax in Atlanta is 85% financed by out of town visitors and airport layovers. Don't confuse the Tee Center with the millions of convention & millions of business travelers who stay in Atlanta with our our own situation in Augusta. And justthefacts, I know that the visitors to the final four may be shocked to learn the Ga Dome is getting torn down, but you are talking about folks who have no clue about what the GA Dome is missing out on due to lack of corporate boxes or what it takes for the Georgia World Congress Center to compete against the worlds busiest convention Centers in the ENTIRE world and what it takes to bring in 35 million people a year. They also don't have a clue that Atlanta will now get a BCS play off game every year and the National Championship on a four game rotation. Of course they think it's nice. I thought the desert Inn in Las Vegas looked nice before they blew it up and built the Encore & the Wynn.

seenitB4
72454
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 10:24 am
2
0

Don't knock vibration RM

Pay us well for the good seats and we vibrate you.

Many need stimulation & we aim to give it!! Ya gotta come outta the boonies & join the grown up world...rat here in big town USA!

seenitB4
72454
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 10:28 am
2
0

You can forget the words civic center or JBA ever existed.

Yes sir to that......but can Augusta be coool ....dunno.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 05/19/13 - 10:42 am
1
0

SPLOST

I can hear fred russel now, 9% sales tax ain't no more than a fancy hair cut.

Cameron Poe
615
Points
Cameron Poe 05/19/13 - 10:43 am
3
0

The $50 million is in

The $50 million is in addition to the $800 million The Falcons and League are paying. Blank has promised an additional $50M to fix the surrounding areas of the stadium. From WSBTV.com -

"The Falcons agreed to pay an additional $50 million for infrastructure around the stadium, and the Blank foundation also agreed to pay $15 million for improvements in the surrounding neighborhoods. Invest Atlanta will also pay $15 million for improvements in surrounding neighborhoods using Tax Allocation District funds."

So looks to me like Blank and the team are doing much more than other cities building stadiums on the backs of its citizens, i.e. Miami.

justthefacts
17970
Points
justthefacts 05/19/13 - 10:43 am
0
0

D.I.

Funny, shot 67 there. My personal best. Hated to see it torn up. I have seen no evidence that Atlanta wouldn't have been in the BCS playoff fiasco starting next year without a new stadium. After all, the new stadium wouldn't be available until 2018. BTW, it hasn't been called The Peach Bowl in yrs. As for the rest of your comments....maybe, maybe not.

Cameron Poe
615
Points
Cameron Poe 05/19/13 - 10:47 am
3
0

And let's not forget Scott,

And let's not forget Scott, while making the argument that a new GA dome is unnecessary due to the age of the current one, that is not really an accurate assessment of the problem. Their are many more problems with the GA Dome. One of the more mitigating ones being the fact that the location is a logistical nightmare.

Old Augusta
233
Points
Old Augusta 05/19/13 - 11:02 am
3
0

Whenever I hear a city official call for a new "Civic Center"

it is like finger nails going down a chalkboard. What is this, 1982? Calling a new state of the art arena a civic center would be like Regal Cinema calling a new multiplex a "picture show." If our city officials were in charge in Atlanta, would Phillips Arena be called Atlanta Civic Center? Would the Verizon Amphitheater be called the Travis Tritt?

countyman
16787
Points
countyman 05/19/13 - 10:54 am
0
4

Arena

I don't have a major problem if the city wanted to build a new arena outside of downtown, but tourist want to visit the urban core and not bland I-20.

Richmond county just raise over $20 million for the Kroc in Harrisburg, and the city is undergoing a $100 million arts campaign right now the performing arts center...

Any new arena outside of Richmond County will FAIL miserably unless it's on/near the Richmond county line.

The $10 million exhibition hall in Grovetown only has the possibility of attracting one local event.. This location is too far away from the majority of the population. The exit 5 area of North Augusta is too far way also.

Interesting, the same people who always mention South Augusta for everything are now bringing up I-20 locations.

Old Augusta
233
Points
Old Augusta 05/19/13 - 11:01 am
1
0

justhefacts, they just changed the name back to Peach Bowl!

The Chick-Fil-A Bowl is now going to be the Peach Bowl presented by Chick-Fil-A. They did this because the BCS wanted the to be consistent with Rose,Sugar,Orange. Since the Cotton Bowl was moved into the new Dallas Cowboy stadium, the Cotton is out of 2nd tier status and will join the new Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl as a new BCS Championship host.

justthefacts
17970
Points
justthefacts 05/19/13 - 11:02 am
1
0

OK

Good to know. Thanks.

seenitB4
72454
Points
seenitB4 05/19/13 - 11:05 am
2
0

Too far away..whatttt!!

Surely you jest ctyman....sometimes I forget the mindset in Augusta & the mindset in the Atlanta area are sooo different.

Gage Creed
12341
Points
Gage Creed 05/19/13 - 11:17 am
1
0

Oh...you mean like the bland

Oh...you mean like the bland VAR and CARMAX areas?

Add this from the Chronicle regarding Christmas made in the South Moving to the Gateway Center... "If the event moves, it would be the fourth major annual event to leave Augusta for a Columbia County site, after Banjo-B-Que, Thunder Over Augusta and the recently announced move of the Rock Fore! Dough concert to the Lady Antebellum Pavilion from the First Tee site on Damascus Road."

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