The Escambia Board of County Commissioners voted 4-0, with Commissioner Lumon May absent, to solicit letters of interest from other development companies to build a field house and possibly an arena. The companies have three weeks to submit their letters.
Purchasing Coordinator Paul Nobles told the commissioners, “If we don’t have any additional interest, then we can move forward. If we do have interest, then the commission can say at the point ‘let’s give them more time to produce a product that we will then be able to review.'”
Commission Chairman Doug Underhill made it clear in the motion that the board would not entertain any proposal that requires use of General Fund dollars. If the proposal does not have an arena, it must have plans for dealing with the Bay Center.
The board is also looking to see the City of Pensacola participate in the final project, since all the proposed sites–Bay Center, former ECUA site and Port of Pensacola–are inside city limits.
Commissioner Steven Barry said, “The Port has no debt. It’s certainly owned by a municipal partner. They have a better chance of being that real property partner.”
How many letters do the commissioners expect to receive? Underhill said he expected to receive zero interest in the deal. Others appeared to be more optimistic.
If no letters are submitted, then the board will ask for more details from Jay Patel and his group, Pensacola Arena Development Partners LLC.
Then as Commissioners Jeff Bergosh and Underhill said, “The devil will be in the details.”