VIRGINIA BEACH-Is Virginia Beach ready for the big leagues? Many leaders and a sports-entertainment group say yes.
A proposed 18,500-seat arena at the Va. Beach Oceanfront would have $98 million in economic impact in its first year and create 1,200 new jobs, according to a study released by Comcast-Spectacor, Live Nation and HKS Inc. at Tuesday afternoon's Council meeting.
Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko told Council that when the group was first approached about the idea, they "jumped on it."
Building the $350 million arena is contingent on a commitment from an NBA or NHL pro sports team to play at the arena, but officials did not state which team it would pursue, stating "We know people in sports. We know who to talk to in the world of sports."
Luukko noted his group owns the Philadelphia Flyers NHL team and he sits on the board of the National Hockey League.
The arena would open in 2014 and experience its first full year operation in 2015. Luukko says Comcast-Spectacor and Global Spectrum would lease and operate the arena for 25 years.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city to bring in new business, create new jobs and serve as a long-term driver of economic growth," said Warren D. Harris, director of economic development for the City of Va. Beach.
He told City Council members, "We believe very strongly that the time to act on this project is now."
Officials noted that southeast Virginia is the largest market in the U.S. without a major sports franchise or an arena with more than 12,000 seats. They say the new arena would allow the city to host more than 200 events a year, including concerts, conventions and sporting events that bypass the area because facilities aren't large enough.
Those events, they predict, would bring more than 1.4 million people to the resort city, they stressed.
The group says it would be paid for by selling naming rights, premium seating, having corporate partnerships and the operations of Comcast-Spectacor and Live Nation.
According to a study by Dr. James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics and President Emeritus, Old Dominion University, Virginia Beach would get 67.3 percent of the total economic impact of the operation of the new arena and 92.2 percent of incremental tax revenues.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said of the arena proposal, "The ACC is always looking for a quality arena." He noted that the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech are within reach of Va. Beach.
Live Nation produces more than 20,000 shows a year and has had a long relationship with Virginia Beach at the Amphitheater.
The economic development department will review the proposal and report back to Council in October. Officials promised to engage and inform the public along the way.
After hearing the pitch, some council members wanted to hear specifics about paying for the project.
"Obviously, with Live Nation, and Global Spectrum, and Comcast willing to say they're going to assume all operational risk for this facility speaks volumes about what opportunity this is for our City," said Councilman Glenn Davis.
"If it's private industry paying for it, I'm behind it. I'll take them all out to dinner, buy some decent wine, show 'em a good time. If it's the taxpayer, we've got a lot of other bills in front of this one," stated Councilman Bill DeSteph.