Specifics of proposed arena in Virginia Beach take shape

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by Brian Farrell

WVEC.com

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 1:51 AM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 28 at 6:39 AM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- $195 million. That's the portion of money Virginia Beach might have to provide for a proposed arena deal at the Oceanfront.

The deal, which is being spearheaded by Comcast Spectacor, promises to bring the largest indoor venue to Hampton Roads as well as a professional sports team to Virginia.

"I stand by want I said from Day 1: For this to move forward, the people that use the facility must be the ones who pay for it," Mayor Will Sessoms said.

Sessoms shared the information with council members at the end of their meeting Tuesday. The figure and other information came after several telephone conversations throughout the day, beginning with a conference call that included Comcast Spectacor President Peter Luukko.

"There's no question right now. They're trying to negotiate a lease for an anchor tenant which would be a professional sports team," Sessoms told 13News.

The $195 million Virginia Beach would provide would go towards construction and financing costs. The City will ask the Commonwealth of Virginia to contribute $150 million. ($70 million of that would go towards capital costs; the other $80 million would help with a professional team's move to Virginia.) Comcast Spectacor would put $35 million towards capital costs (while still assuming operational costs and losses).

"I think the private industry should kick in a heck of a lot more than, you know, 10 percent," shared Councilman Bill DeSteph. "I think that's a lot of money, $195 million from the City's share, and you just heard beforehand that we've got to figure out a how to finance and develop light rail because 62.77 percent of our citizens want it."

"It all comes down to comparing the investment to the return on investment down the road," said Councilman Glenn Davis who remained optimistic about the project. "The question is, 'Well how does that get paid?' and if we can do that in a manner where it's paid for by admissions taxes, concession taxes, and, potentially, other things where only the people that actually attend actually pay for that, I think it makes sense."

"If you see where we started out months ago and where we are today, the risk would be spread. We don't anticipate that the projections would fail, but if they did, we, basically, have protected ourselves by spreading the risk," explained Sessoms. "I'm convinced the Commonwealth of Virginia should have a professional sports team. I'm convinced that Hampton Roads, and Virginia Beach, and the Commonwealth can support a professional sports team."

Luukko and some of his staff members are supposed to make a presentation to City Council on December 4.

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