Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward made news around the country with his Friday announcement that the city is in early stages of building a new arena to attract the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans G League team.
Hayward mentioned a public-private partnership to build the facility. The arena will replace the Pensacola Bay Center – which would be good news for the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners that is struggling to balance its budget as detention and public safety costs escalate.
The BCC no longer having to subsidize the Bay Center would help county finances considerably.
Inweekly has heard about four possible sites for the City of Pensacola’s arena – Port of Pensacola, former ECUA site (owned by the Studers), the current Pensacola Bay Center site, and the Community Maritime Park.
The Port and CMPA sites are owned by the city so Mayor Hayward would have some leverage in working with the private investor group headed by hotelier Jay Patel.
Hayward’s CFO, Dick Barker, has told the City Council that the mayor plans to borrow $20 million using Local Option Sales Tax revenue as collateral. The mayor hasn’t announced how he plans to spend the dollars.
Mayor Hayward has told his supporters privately that the Tom Benson, who owns the Pelicans and New Orleans Saints, wants to work with him, not the county.
So the table is set. Can Hayward deliver the meal? Or will he need Escambia County to pay for it?