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For Sale: Pensacola Civic Center

January 6, 2012

Escambia County commissioners are looking to unload the Pensacola Civic Center. But  Commission Chairman Wilson Robertson isn’t getting his hopes up.

“Personally, I don’t think we’re gonna get a sale-offer for $10 million,” Robertson said.
Recently, Commissioner Gene Valentino had a realtor contact him with a interest in the civic center. They wouldn’t name their client.

The facility has long been a financial drain on the county—sucking up $2 million in tourism funds each year—and no-go attempts have been made to sell before. During their meeting Thursday, commissioners eyed putting out a Request for Letters of Interest, with a stipulation that the unnamed potential buyer put down a $500,000. non-refundable deposit.

George Hawthorne, president of the Gulf Coast African American Chamber of Commerce had another idea. He requested the commissioners consider partnering with a collective of groups in turning the facility into a convention center. He urged the board to make room for both a “plan A and plan B.”

Commissioner Kevin White said the county had no interest in retaining ownership in the facility.

“It’s never going to be a viable project to make money,” White said.

The commission agreed to accept letters of interest, with deposits, on the civic center, and also to take a look at Hawthorne’s proposal. White, who resisted the notion of maintaining stakes in the civic center, didn’t sound enthused.

“I’m hoping somebody buys it because one in the hand is better than three in the bush,” he told Robertson and Commissioner Marie Young—commissioners Valentino and Grover Robertson were absent.

Interested parties must have their letters to the county Jan. 27. In February, county officials must address the contract with the center’s current management company.

  • eric January 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I have enjoyed many events at the Civic Center and it gives me no pleasure to write that Mr. Bosco may very well be correct in “just tear it down”. When it was built sensible folks said, “Its in the wrong location and its not large enough.” Add shoddy construction (they pit the acoustic tiles in backwards intially), poor management and general obselesence and one would have to want to see a feasibility analysis done on it.

    Concert goers have to pay $80 plus per seat to attract music groups and the few number of actual bookings that take place prove its not practical to maintain.

    No entity, except perhaps a sports team, is going to want it and Esc county would have to practically give it to them.

    Valentino should quit phoning in that he is receiving these bogus contacts because they rarely amount to anything. He just wants to get his name in the paper for something other than an investigation against him to fool the folks in Escambia county that he is earning his paycheck.

    Part of this pressure on the county is that the bed tax subsidizes the Civic center 2 mil per year and if the control of those monies goes to hotel owners wishes, Civic center will lose the subsidy. Maybe Grover will chime in on this because he appears to be in favor of hoteliers controlling the funds and he is well-informed in this area. But really, 500K non-refundable deposit?
    Irrelevant because extremely doubtful Valentino has any serious prospects. Hope I’m wrong.

  • Marc Bosco January 7, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I have an idea. Let’s nuke the old gal. Financially the building is a loser. Functionally the building is a loser. Aesthetically the buidling is a loser. Why are we determined to hang onto it?

    We all know the CC is a nightmare, the acoustics are beyond terrible, the infrastructure is decades behind state-of-the-art, the thing is just plain ugly, it leaks, reeks of mildew and harbors vermin.

    Do you know why there are few rats left at the port? They all moved to the Civic Center. Do the right thing for once, Pensacola. Demolish it. If you can’t get a decent private-public deal for a new one, fine. That is one big chunk of prime real estate the monstrosity takes up, give it over to private development and collect the tax revenue.

    Anyone stupid enough to buy it is not going to have the brains nor the money to fix all of the problems and it will continue to go downhill. A few years from now I predict it will be a big festering eyesore and the county will be spending millions in lawsuits trying to get the new owners to bring it up to code.

    Do the right thing. Demolish it.

  • steve January 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Why is it that Mr. Valentino is never at meetings lately? Is there family illness or something?

    Also, isn’t it curious that Geno is contacted by people who don’t want thier names disclosed…same thing happened with an airline industry company in a trip valentino made to Paris, France, that is.

    500K non-refundable deposit….Really, must be kidding!

  • jeeperman January 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    How many times has it been put up for sale?
    And how is this time any different then previous?

    P.S. how come you and the PNJ keep mixing up the R & R names of the commissioners in articles ?