Longtime readers probably already know that I’ve written a lot over the years — at least as far back as 2005 — about potential sites for the new arena that was approved by Chatham County voters as part of the current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax collection.
In a couple months, voters will be asked to approve a new round of SPLOST to start when the current collection ends. I’d say that vote has a very uncertain future.
Because of a steep drop in tax revenue during the recession and because some monies were shifted to other projects, the city has just $20 million for a new arena, which would likely cost $120-140 million.
In November, voters countywide — and especially those in the city limits — will have to decide if they want to vote to fund the same major project that they voted to fund in 2006.
The politics are tricky, to say the least.
And the politics have been made trickier by the dithering over potential sites. Of the four sites under consideration, two have never really made any sense to me at all. Rebuilding on the current site is not the worst idea in the world, but has some major drawbacks that I discussed in a recent column.
If we could acquire the land, the westside site chosen about a decade ago under City Manager Michael Brown has always seemed a perfect location for a variety of big reasons.
Now this from Eric Curl’s City Council members tour potential arena sites:
Marty Johnston, the city’s director of special projects, informed members of the city council of the discovery while they took a bus tour to the four locations being considered for the facility on Wednesday afternoon.
Johnston said that staff found out about two weeks ago that the property the city owns north of Gwinnett Street along the Springfield Canal can accommodate an arena the size of a much-praised 11,500-seat facility in Gwinnett County. Up until then, city staff had said they would need to acquire more property, which would have likely required extensive environmental mitigation.
Now, I have no idea why it should take so many years for someone to look at the amount of acreage and the layout of the westside site (sort of northwest of Chatham Steel just west of downtown) and determine that we already have enough land. It seems borderline ridiculous, frankly, that the city didn’t know how much land was needed.
But with that issue apparently off the table, one has to wonder why the city would be considering any site that it doesn’t already own.
And if the choice is to build a new arena on land that was acquired years ago specifically for that purpose or to build a new arena on the site of the current one, then we’re pretty close to a final call. It seems clear to me that the best call is the westside site so that the current arena site and its huge parking lot can go back into private hands and that we can reopen some long-closed streets.
If city officials commit to that westside site, they will rebuild a little lost trust with some West Savannah residents and they’ll still have well over two months to build their case for another round of SPLOST.