Virginia Beach votes to move forward with arena plan

Artist's rendering of proposed arena in Virginia Beach, VA

Despite a setback in funding, Virginia Beach took another step toward building a new arena and presumably luring the Sacramento Kings east. Their council voted 9-2 on Tuesday night to continue negotiations with entertainment giant Comcast-Spectacor.

Just four days ago, Governor Bob McDonnell declined to include a $150-million subsidy for the project in Virginia’s state budget.  There is belief among the council that McDonnell can still provide state assistance, but needs more time to assess the benefits of the deal.

The new proposed 18,500-seat arena is expected to cost roughly $346 million to construct. Virginia Beach is expected to kick in at least $241 million, while Comcast Spectacor has committed to providing $35 million to the project.

Below are a few select comments from various Virginia Beach council members from Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilman Joe Moss did not express much confidence in the deal and voted no.

The mayor has said that without the commonwealth as an investor in the amount of roughly $150 million, the deal probably can’t happen. And my conversations with state representatives in the state senate had been that we are behind the eight ball in getting $150 million out of the general assembly. Not impossible, but the odds are not in our favor.

Councilman Glenn R. Davis supported the resolution because he believes the process should now move to its next step: engaging the public.

I think right now, it would be completely irresponsible to vote against continuing to move forward and discussing this project and to start getting public input. One thing we all know is that this project could be a game-changer for the city of Virginia Beach and has a significant opportunity to increase the prosperity of our city, our state and our citizens. I would just say tonight’s not the night to stop the discussion and stop public participation. That decision should be reserved for when we have all the details.

Councilman Bill DeSteph voted no, but feels negotiations should continue with the parties involved. He is not happy with the current terms of the deal.

We have the framework of a deal here tonight that I don’t support. The framework of the deal says that Comcast Spectacor will contribute $35 million. In a deal of this size, I think that’s too little. I think that they should participate at a level of at least 50 percent of the deal. That’s something that I can personally support.

Mayor Will Sessoms, a prime playmaker in the deal, ended council statements with this:

I’ll conclude, if I may, very simply by saying you know right now, it appears we have an opportunity to bring a professional sports team to the commonwealth of Virginia, to Hampton Roads and to Virginia Beach. Now what are the chances of this occurring  I cannot tell you. But I will stand by what I’ve said from day one and I think the entire council supports this statement: if this facility is built, it will be paid for by the people who use it or benefit from it. We will not ask the tax burden to be placed on the homeowners and as such, that has been, I believe, what we’ve stated from day one and will continue to do so.

Update (9:20 PM PT): The next major step in the proposal is to have a term sheet signed by all parties, including the anchor tenant and arena operator, by the start of the General Assembly session early next month.  (Sources: WAVY-TV and Pilot Online)

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