Savannah arena advances as city caps building price at $148M

Credit: Blake Guthrie

Credit: Blake Guthrie

Savannah city officials have capped construction costs on a new city arena at $147.6 million, clearing the way to move forward with issuing more construction contracts.

News outlets report the Savannah City Council approved the price cap on Thursday by a 7-2 vote.

The cap doesn't include a projected $17.4 million in other costs, such as furnishing, inspecting and insuring the arena. The total price is supposed to be $165 million. But the cap means contractors will know they have to cover cost overruns on construction.

Managers say the structure will start coming out of the ground in the next few weeks and will open in early 2022. It's funded using money from a voter-approved sales tax and work began last fall.

In approving the cap, aldermen ignored a request from Mayor Van Johnson for a delay to seek ways to employ more people re-entering society from prison. City Manager Pat Monahan said a delay could cost $500,000 more in fees and slow the ability to issue contracts for work.

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The council voted to approve setting the price, but also asked the city manager and staff to find a way to include more local workers on the project.

Alderwoman Linda Wilder-Bryan expressed concern that projections that 26% of work would go to disadvantaged business enterprises would not actually result in qualified construction workers who are city residents being hired to build the arena.

Alderwoman Bernetta Lanier echoed Wilder-Bryan's concerns by encouraging city staff to create plans that would ensure neighboring residents would be hired to build the arena and would not be displaced from surrounding homes.

"It's been generational economic injustice in that area," Lanier said. "We're looking for parity to replace the disparity."

Manny Dominguez, director of Savannah's Office of Business Opportunity, said the city's program encourages hiring businesses and workers based in Savannah.

“We have retooled our entire DBE program, with direction of the mayor and council,” Dominguez said. “We know that those businesses are more likely to hire locally.”