VIRGINIA BEACH -- City Council approved a resolution Tuesday that allows Virginia Beach to continue looking into a deal with Comcast-Spectacor that promises to bring an 18,500-seat arena to the Oceanfront. As part of the proposed deal, the venue would become home to a major professional sports team.
Councilmen Bill DeSteph and John Moss cast "no" votes.
"I still have serious concerns about the terms, and the terms as written are ones that I cannot support," explained Moss, adding he has the utmost respect for those who supported the resolution and that he would continue to work with members of council and city workers in trying to broker better terms of the proposal.
The 9-2 vote allows Virginia Beach to move forward on a deal with Philadelphia based sports and entertainment company Comcast-Spectacor to try to lure a franchise to town by building a $300 million facility near the Virginia Beach Convention Center. A final vote would come in February or March.
While no specific team has been mentioned, a likely target for relocation would be the Sacramento Kings, which failed to reach a deal to build a new arena in California's capital this spring. The Kings nearly moved to Anaheim, California. last year before Sacramento's mayor was given one last chance by the NBA to come up with an arena deal. There have been no substantive arena negotiations between the team and the city since then, and a public relations firm hired by Virginia Beach secured the domain names for virginiabeachkings.com and vbkings.com.
Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko signed a confidentiality agreement preventing him from saying which team he's negotiating to bring to Virginia Beach, but he noted that these opportunities don't come up very often. He should know, because his company owns the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers and once owned the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers.
The City of Virginia Beach asked the Commonwealth for $150 million, $80 million of which would help with relocating a team to Virginia.
"It's a lot of money, obviously, $150 million, and, so, I'm just saying, at this time, the evaluation is still being done about the economic impact of an arena and a basketball team in Hampton Roads, how tax revenues would increase as a result of that arena being there, what the payback would mean for the State, so we haven't even made a decision," Governor Bob McDonnell told 13News.
"We have gone to our legislative delegation, and we've got someone in the Senate and someone in the House prepared to move forward with the bills," said Mayor Will Sessoms, referring to legislation that could be introduced in the General Assembly to secure the $150 million. "Ron Villanueva will represent us in the House, and Frank Wagner will represent us in the Senate."
In an effort to help earn state lawmakers' support, Virginia Beach paid for an economic study that says an NBA team would support about 3,700 jobs in Virginia and that the state government would receive nearly $11 million in tax revenue each year. The proposed deal with Comcast-Spectacor calls for an NBA or NHL team signing a 25-year lease with the company taking care of the arena's annual operating costs, as well as chipping in $35 million for arena construction. The city would pay the rest.
Comcast-Spectacor would lease and operate the arena for 25 years. No arena would be built without a pro sports team's commitment to relocating.
Virginia State Senator Jeffrey McWaters said, "I think what I'm looking for, and I think the city is working on, is a detailed business plan that really shows what the money would be used for and how it would be paid back."
Moving a team from Sacramento to Virginia Beach would mean moving it from the country's 20th largest media market to its 44th, according to Nielsen company. Arena backers note that because Virginia doesn't have another professional sports team, the Virginia Beach designated market area could be combined with Richmond's to make it the 21st largest just behind Sacramento for the purpose of televising games and broadcast rights.
For the first 2 years, while the arena would be built, the team could play some games in Richmond.
A citizens' committee, comprised of at least 38 people, will hold its first meeting Wednesday. The group, which is supposed to help gauge the public's thoughts on the project, is supposed to host a meeting next week that will be open to everyone.
"There's one thing that hasn't changed," stressed Sessoms. "This facility will pay for itself by the people who use it or benefit from it, or else this facility will not be approved by Virginia Beach."