Sat, March 02, 2024

Next steps for construction of a new arena

Voter approval of the $250 million bond issue for the construction of a new James Brown Arena was just the first step in a long process.

Augusta Richmond County Coliseum Authority members this week approved an intergovernmental agreement clearing the way for the funds.

Attorney Ed Enoch, the authority’s legal counsel, explained the sales tax funds for the project will be collected by the city of Augusta. To access the money, both the commission and authority must approve the agreement.

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“Once the intergovernmental agreement is signed, there’ll be a process for requesting requisitions periodically, based on progress and sign-offs by the architect on where we are just like any other construction project,” he explained. “Once it’s approved by you all, then it will be submitted to the consolidated government.”

Once the funding mechanism is in place, the dominoes can start to fall, including finalizing the contract for the Arizona-based Nations Group to step in as the owners’ representative. Until then, Enoch said the project is in kind of a holding pattern.

“Once we have that in place, we’ll have the go-ahead. We’ll have access to the funds to enter into these longer-term contracts. We’ve been preparing a request for proposals (RFP) for the construction manager at risk, to come in and build this thing, and give us a guaranteed maximum price. But we can’t do any of those things until we’ve got an agreement about how we get the money, and that’s what this is” he said.

Enoch made clear the authority, not the commission, will be managing the project. Nations Group will advertise the RFPs and coordinate between the architect and builders as the advocate for the authority.

“We’ve gone back and forth with the city to make sure that we’ve got to an agreement that is streamlined, it’s efficient. It’s all about getting the money in our hands, so we can get this building. I’m very comfortable with it,” he assured authority members.

Authority members voted unanimously to approve the intergovernmental agreement and send it to the commission for final action. Member, Brad Usry, who is also chairman of the authority’s new JBA subcommittee, hopes it will be on the agenda for the commission’s Feb. 6 meeting.

The new JBA is the largest component of a three-step project to create a new Augusta Entertainment Center. Work is well underway on the first step, renovating and updating the Bell Auditorium.

H.B. Brantley, owners’ representative for this phase, updated authority members on the project, which includes adding more than 5,000 square feet to the lobby, additional restrooms, a green room for performers, and an elevator connecting the dressing rooms to the stage.

“If you’d like to schedule a walkthrough at the appropriate time, you can start seeing some of the interior spaces and interior finishes taking shape with the wall tiles up in the bathroom and the premium spaces being finished,” he reported. “We also have the brick going up on the exterior, which we’ll be able to appreciate more once we get the scaffolding out of the way.”

Brantley said the project remains on budget and on schedule for the April 29 completion of construction. After that, the furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FFE) will be installed. The target date for the first show in the Bell is late May.

The third step of the project is a concourse that will connect the new arena with the Bell.

Updates on the project are available at: https://newaugustaarena.com.

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