After all, the last time the public was not present at the authority’s meeting, the majority of its members selected the abandoned former Regency Mall location on Gordon Highway as the preferred site for the new $120 million James Brown Arena.
Many folks were a little nervous to see what the authority would decide if an audience didn’t show up this month.
So, this week’s meeting was filled with representatives from the community including Soul Bar co-owner Coco Rubio; concert promoter Joe Stevenson of Gluestick Music; the founder of Friends With Benefits, George Claussen IV; former Augusta commissioners Jimmy Smith, Ulmer Bridges and Louis “Hap” Harris; local businessman and former coliseum authority member, J.R. Riles; and Augusta Commissioner Bill Fennoy.
The same man who was behind last month’s political coup to surprise the community with the selection of Regency Mall as the preferred site, decided to forgo this week’s coliseum authority meeting.
Davis decided not to face the music alongside his good pal, authority member Darren Smith, who was the one who was shoved into the spotlight by the mayor in the first place. Smith was the one who got to announce the surprise attack on his colleagues by proposing the Regency Mall location during last month’s meeting.
And what did Davis do?
He laid it all in Smith’s lap.
“Well, the last time I checked, coliseum authority member Darren Smith brought this to them,” Davis told the Metro Spirit last month, saying he wasn’t responsible for the deal, but fully supported it.
So, if the mayor was so interested in supporting the Regency Mall location, why wasn’t he at this week’s coliseum authority meeting?
Well, maybe Davis knew he wouldn’t like what the authority’s consultants, Sink Combs Dethlefs, would say about the idea of constructing a new $120 million arena out on Gordon Highway in south Augusta.
According to the consultants’ findings, only 2 percent of the arenas built in the past several years have been constructed in suburban areas.
An overwhelming majority of new arenas, approximately 63 percent, are constructed in downtown areas.
Those are pretty good statistics that should point Augusta’s proposal for a new arena in the right direction: back downtown.
But the mayor wasn’t present to hear those numbers.
In fact, he was nowhere to be found during the coliseum authority meeting.
The only place that the mayor was openly discussing the arena and the Regency Mall site this week was … on Facebook.
Yep, folks. Apparently, he took a page out of President Trump’s own playbook and turned to social media to get his message out.
On the Augusta Political Watch’s Facebook page, the mayor of our fine city was actually arguing with some critics of the Regency Mall location late into the night on Monday, Sept. 25.
Less than 24 hours before the coliseum authority meeting, he was duking it out on Facebook.
Believe it or not.
It all started when local musician Bethany Davis got onto the Facebook page to let everyone know that the coliseum authority was going to meet on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
Little did the local singer know that she was about to be debating the mayor of Augusta on social media.
During the discussion about the arena, several people pointed out that the mayor was up for re-election and that perhaps he was trying to “appease south Augusta’s voters” with the Regency Mall deal.
“Pitting West Augusta against South Augusta as a tactic for re-election,” someone wrote. “Feasible, no?”
Within the next few minutes, Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. (or at least his Facebook account) joined in on the conversation.
“Let’s be very clear. I, nor anyone that I’m aware of has pitted West Augusta vs. South Augusta,” the mayor wrote.
Then, an individual on the Facebook page stated that she wanted the mayor to explain why he wanted to put $120 million of the “people’s money” on land in south Augusta the city didn’t own.
“Hardie Davis Jr. you have some agenda and the citizens of Richmond County deserve to know,” she posted.
Another person posted that someone should “Call a Grand jury …”
Apparently, the mayor didn’t appreciate those comments.
He wrote back, “Ummm this is the best I can do re: your comment,” and posted a photo of actor Gary Coleman with the tagline, “What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” from the television show, “Different Strokes.”
But critics continued to ask questions about the mayor’s relationship with the owners of Regency Mall, such as, “What do you OWE these people?”
After several different lines of questioning, the mayor turned to the Bible for an answer.
“Nah. Owe no man anything but to love one another…. Romans,” the mayor posted.
So, now you know, Augusta.
Next time you want to have a conversation with the mayor about something very serious like the $120 million new arena, go online.
From Coleman to Romans on Facebook, but he can’t even show up where the real work gets done.
Denver-based consultants, Sink Combs Dethlefs, presented members of the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority an outline of information and data collected over the past several years regarding potential locations for the city’s proposed $120 million arena. According to the consultants’ findings, only 2 percent of the arenas built in the past several years across the country have been constructed in suburban areas. An overwhelming majority of new arenas, approximately 63 percent, are constructed in downtown areas. Consultants with Sink Combs Dethlefs have recommended that the city build the new arena at the existing James Brown Arena site in downtown Augusta, while a majority of the coliseum authority members voted last month that the new arena should be constructed at the former Regency Mall location in south Augusta.