VIRGINIA BEACH — If Virginia Beach leaders thought a proposal to build a multi-million arena in the resort area was going to be a slam-dunk, a new poll suggests they were wrong and it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
The poll was conducted Oct. 2 through 8 by 13News, Christopher Newport University and The Virginian-Pilot.
The results are based on 766 telephone interviews in the Second District with people who said they were registered and “very likely” to vote.
For this question, results are based only on answers from 471 Virginia Beach residents who were polled.
The poll asked, "Do you generally support or generally oppose the idea of building an arena in Virginia Beach?”
The result was underwhelming.
Just 38 percent said they generally support the idea, 45 percent responding that they generally oppose it, and 17 percent said they didn’t know, weren’t sure, or refused to answer.
Earlier this year, Comcast Spectacor proposed building a new, 18,000 seat indoor facility near the Virginia Beach Convention Center that could be home to an NBA team, an NHL team and could host top names for concerts.
Virginia Beach's mayor Will Sellsoms told City Council, “To see Comcast willing to make a commitment of 25 years on a lease, I think everyone at this table would agree that is huge."
The arena is estimated to cost $350 million, paid for in part by bonds, backed by city taxpayers.
Councilman Bill DeSteph has expressed concern. “I have a lot of questions on the cost. I’m going to be having a lot of questions on who’s supposed to be putting up what.”
Pollster Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University said the poll results suggest strong misgivings when it comes to the price tag.
When the cost was factored in, in a follow-up question, the lukewarm support for the arena turned ice cold.
The poll asked, “Do you support using public funding for the construction of the arena, or do you oppose public funds being used no matter what?"
Only 32 percent said yes, they support the proposal. Over half, 58 percent said no, they oppose it. Eleven percent said they don’t know, aren’t sure, or refused to answer.
“If the city is really intent on an arena, I think it’s going to take city leaders going out into the community and selling the idea to citizens and talking about the benefits of it and talking about the reasons for it. I don’t think that happened with the arena,” said Kidd.
“It just sort of popped out of nowhere. People were caught by surprise. They started hearing about the price tag, hundreds of millions of dollars, and I just think that caused people to hesitate," Kidd added.
The Virginia Beach portion of the poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%.
Tomorrow, we'll have the poll results asking what people think of extending light rail to the Beach.