During a news conference last week at the Marble Palace with about a dozen south Augusta supporters standing behind him, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis attempted to make his case for constructing a new $120 million James Brown Arena on the former abandoned Regency Mall site.
“There will be future generations of Augustans who will look at this day, at this moment in time and say, ‘Someone was willing to be courageous. Someone was willing to be visionary,’” Davis announced.
Talk about sporting some rose-colored glasses.
Despite what Davis is trying to sell to voters in front of the cameras, many Augustans feel that this new proposal to build a $120 million arena on property out in south Augusta (on land the city doesn’t even own) is beyond a bad idea.
Not only is it unwise, but many Augustans feel like the debate is dividing this community.
However, despite these obvious concerns, Davis didn’t back down. Instead, he returned to his old campaign slogan of “One Augusta.”
“I must tell you, this is not an us versus them,” Davis said during the press conference. “This is not a south Augusta versus a west Augusta. This is not downtown versus other parts of the county. I continue to keep saying it. We are one Augusta. Not two Augustas. Not 10 Augustas. Not a black versus white Augusta. We are Augusta.”
Well, mayor. We, as Augustans, aren’t happy.
And we are not alone.
Both the chairman and vice chairman of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority, Cedric Johnson and Brad Usry, are outraged over the Regency Mall site.
They were blindsided by the fact that the majority of their fellow coliseum authority members voted in support of the former Regency Mall location on Gordon Highway only after Mayor Davis, himself, pushed the idea.
Everyone in Augusta knows that Davis was behind this plan, but he is still attempting to pass the buck.
“I submit the overall handling of this process to the degree that I know little pieces of it, there are things that should have been handled differently,” Davis said during the press conference. “I lay that at the feet of the chairman and vice chairman. They’re the ones in control of this process.”
Really? You are going there, Mr. Mayor?
Johnson and Usry did everything right.
Over the past three years, the two men have dedicated countless hours reviewing and considering all of the city’s options regarding a new 10,000-plus seat arena for the Augusta area. They supported the findings of the $142,000 arena plan developed by the Denver-based consultants, Sink Combs Dethlefs, that stated the arena should remain downtown.
But you, Mr. Mayor, were the one who wanted to reintroduce the Regency Mall site into the discussion.
You were the one who asked for more time to keep the owners of the mall property in the loop.
Mr. Mayor, you were the one who said you would not “strong arm” the coliseum authority into choosing the Regency Mall location.
And look what happened.
Johnson and Usry were completely unaware of the proposal from the mall’s owner, Alan Cardinale of Cardinal Management, which offered a $1 a year land lease for 35 years for approximately 39 acres on the Regency Mall site to be used for a new arena.
Guess who the Aug. 21 letter was addressed to?
You, Mr. Mayor, that’s who.
Also, during the Aug. 22 vote on the Regency Mall site, coliseum authority member Darren Smith even refused to show the other authority members the letter from Cardinale after he introduced it to the body.
The majority of the coliseum authority members voted on the motion to support the Regency Mall site without even reading the details of Cardinale’s proposal.
Is that wise with $120 million of taxpayer money at stake?
So, mayor, it’s time to take some ownership in your role in this mess.
Should things have been “handled differently” as you have suggested?
It should have been handled very differently by one person: You.