October 04, 2017
Summary: Convergence Design was part of a team engaged by Escambia County, Florida to study the possibility of new sports and tourism facilities in the County. As part of that study, Convergence looked at the Bay Center, an older existing arena, and put forward a replacement plan that would better suit the characteristics of the Pensacola market.
After months of behind-the-scenes meetings, official details have been released on a proposed 6,500-seat arena that could replace the Pensacola Bay Center.
Businessman Jay Patel has brought together seven companies to pitch a new $65 million to $80 million arena and field house to Escambia County Commissioners at Thursday's meeting.
Patel told the News Journal on Monday the presentation is the result of a feasibility study conducted by the Tampa-based firm Crossroads Consulting Services and Convergence Design. The survey, which was sponsored by the Pensacola Sports Association and funded by the county, stated that an indoor youth-sports facility could result in an economic impact of $25 million to the county.
Details on the proposed plan began to leak after Mayor Ashton Hayward told the News Journal in July that a new arena proposal was in the works when he was asked about where a new NBA G League team would play if the county didn't agree to open the Bay Center.
The Crossroads study only looked at the economic impact of a field house or indoor youth-sports facility, but Patel said the arena was added to the plan after receiving feedback from county commissioners that a plan to replace the Bay Center needed to include an arena.
"We knew that you had to have another arena, so therefore we've incorporated that into the deal," Patel said. "So it keeps the community's way of life as well as supports the study the that was done."
The County Commission will consider an unsolicited proposal from Patel's company formed for the project called Pensacola Arena Development Partners LLC.
Under Florida law, government bodies can consider unsolicited proposals outside of the regular procurement process. The law requires that if the county accepts the proposal, it must advertise for two weeks that it will accept other proposals for the same project.
Escambia County Chairman Doug Underhill said he has been supportive of the project as long as the private sector is also contributing.
"I've been very clear about my desire to get rid of the Bay Center, and the term I often use is to get out from underneath a non-performing asset," Underhill said. "The Bay Center is a non-performing asset."
But Underhill said he hoped the commission would be "extremely cautious" about making any financial commitments in light of a potential budget appeal from the Escambia County Sheriff's Office.
"Getting people to come to Escambia County for any reason is good for our economy because when people come to Escambia County, they see it, they fall in love with it, they end up moving their businesses here," he said.
Mayor Hayward was not available to comment on Monday.