Can Hayward deliver NBA Pelicans team without county dollars

July 17, 2017

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.

His interview with the News Journal was picked up by several newspapers. (one more)

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?

Stay tuned.

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  • Reply Sherri Myers July 19, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    He has never brought this up to City Council. So, I wonder were the money is coming from. This issue has never been discussed at City Council, and yet we’re talking about spending taxpayers money like there is no tomorrow. Interesting! Does he have a line of credit we’re not aware of?

  • Reply dot July 18, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I just think it would be a shame to waste the waterfront adjacent (ish) property (ECUA or maritime park) for a use that won’t even see the priceless views. Maybe they could do something instead with the superfund site at Sanders Beach?

  • Reply Doug Underhill July 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    I applaud the Mayor’s efforts, and the use of private sector resources is brilliant. If he can accomplish the added benefit of facilitating the replacement of the aging Bay Center, that will be incredible.

    • Reply ggh July 21, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Doug, that is not his intent
      He wants taxpayers to pay for it… and this community needs infrastructure before anymore concrete is poured.

  • Reply CJ Lewis July 17, 2017 at 10:14 am

    Another option would be for the city to buy the Pensacola Bay Center from the county, fund the upgrades and then run it, presumably running it at a loss just like the Saenger Threatre, the city’s golf course and the city’s tennis courts. The Port of Pensacola option only makes sense if the City Council decides to exit the port business once and for all. The Community Maritime Park option seems a non-starter unless the $20 million is going to be spent to build the 976-space structure parking garage that city voters would were told would be part of the project’s Phase II. That said, at present, the Community Maritime Park “economic development” project is bleeding money requiring a taxpayer subsidy of more than $3 million to keep it afloat, and keep baseball ticket prices under $75. Rather than a public-private partnership in which the public usually ends up getting screwed-over, how about the private sector build it. Quint Studer or Fred Levin could build it using their own money with the facility named in their honor.

  • Reply NotaGOB July 17, 2017 at 9:12 am

    Although I feel a large Hotel with a Convention Center and a new Arena at the old ECUA site is a good idea, I have misgivings about this proposal. Since both Hockey and Basketball teams play at the same time of year they require plenty of the same Friday and Saturday nights to draw large enough crowds to be successful. How does Mayor Hayward intend to place two teams in one arena without one of them suffering due to a lack of weekend dates? Lest we forget that in order to play Basketball the Ice would have to be removed making it very difficult just for the Hockey team to practice on a regular basis.

    It would be a big mistake to destroy a thriving business (Ice Flyers) in order to bring a Basketball Team to town that may or may not be successful. If I was Greg Harris I would be greatly concerned about any plan to destroy the Bay Center before any guarantees his team would have all the necessary accommodations to continue operating in Pensacola. We all know that currently the Ice Flyers find themselves giving up critical dates and practice time throughout the year with just one pro team occupying the Bay Center.

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