Patel to reveal sports arena plans next month

By Duwayne Escobedo
INWEEKLY

Pensacola hotelier and developer Jay Patel is seeking private and public investors to build a new sports complex. He told Inweekly that he will lay out his plan for the Escambia Board of County Commissioners in September

Patel said the concept, which he has discussed individually with the county commissioners, has existed for awhile and is not tied to luring the New Orleans Pelicans developmental league team to Pensacola.

In June, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward gave a pitch to the NBA selection team to host the club. Shreveport and Pensacola are reportedly the only two cities in the running.

When contacted by the Inweekly, Patel said he could not reveal details yet about the plan, such as what it looks like, where it would be located, the economic benefits, the types of jobs it would create, the funding, etc. He asked the Inweekly to wait a few weeks and the plan would be revealed to everyone at an Escambia County board meeting.

“Commissioners were optimistic,” Patel said. “They liked what they saw. But I have to make sure everybody is on board. There are so many people. This is a big project.”

Patel said he isn’t seeking a handout from the county to pay for the sports complex.

“There is a lot of outside private funding. It is not about the county being on the hook,” Patel said.

He congratulated the city of Shreveport for its plan to build a $125 million arena specifically to accommodate the Pelicans. Many top corporations and community leaders have signed off on the project and the city has the land and plans to begin building it.

“If Shreveport wants to go out and build something just for the Pelicans, I respect them for that,” Patel said. “I wish them well. Our project is not dependent on the Pelicans. We’ve worked on this think the last 18 months. It really has nothing to do with them.”

Patel, though, said the proposed Pensacola sports complex could handle the Pelicans D-League team, if the professional basketball executives decided to play here in the future.

“(Shreveport) is luring them,” Patel said. “We are not. If we move forward successfully and the county blesses this project, of course, we would love to have them.”

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1 thought on “Patel to reveal sports arena plans next month

  1. Rather than the Escambia County Commission take the first deal put on the table, a smarter approach, especially given that the Pensacola Bay Center has a few years left in it, would be to hire an independent consultant – someone who is not from here and so not subject to local pressures – to very objectively assess the needs and wants of not just Escambia County but perhaps Santa Rosa County too as well as the University of West Florida, Pensacola State College, Pensacola Christian College and other groups such as the Pensacola Sports Association and Arts, Culture & Entertainment, Inc. Any such review should acknowledge the artificial nature of political boundaries as anyone can attest if they live in Pensacola and have run into people they know at The Wharf in Orange Beach, etc. There seems no point building competing facilities in too close proximity to each other with the proximity of any such facility to Interstate 10 a good thing for drawing people into Escambia County for events. Further, any such assessment should take into account storm surge zones because anyone with half a brain knows that sooner or later Downtown Pensacola is going to get slammed by a major storm and everything then under many feet of water. A new sports and entertainment facility perhaps one well-suited to the performing arts too should be built on very dry land. Ideally, other than leasing land if it is owned by Escambia County, the government will keep its hands clean and let the private sector take all the risks and reap all of the financial rewards. The Community Maritime Park “economic development” project is sucking taxpayers dry in excess of $3 million a year. The Pensacola Bay Center, Saenger Theatre, Osceola Golf Course and Roger Scott Tennis Center are all intentionally operated at a loss requiring taxpayer subsidies to stay afloat. For this proposed facility, let’s hope the Commissioners use common sense and stand up to the political pressure.

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