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A proposal to build an 18,000-seat arena near the Virginia Beach oceanfront "has revived hopes that the region finally might snag a major league professional sports team -- possibly the NBA's Sacramento Kings," according to sources cited in a front-page piece by Aaron Applegate of the Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said that Comcast-Spectacor has “guaranteed that if an arena deal goes through, the company would bring a major pro team -- basketball or hockey -- to town.” The team would play at an arena located across from the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Sources said that the Kings are a "likely tenant.” However, Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof said, “We haven’t talked to Virginia Beach.” Comcast-Spectacor VP/PR Ike Richman said in a statement, “Despite preliminary reports, no specific professional sports team from any league has been identified as the potential tenant for this building.” NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said that the league “has not been contacted by the Kings about moving and that the team has not filed an application for relocation,” which means the team “will play next season in Sacramento.” Applegate notes Sessoms, Virginia Beach Vice Mayor Louis Jones and City Manager Jim Spore “met with representatives of Global Spectrum and Live Nation on Tuesday.” Jones said, “There wasn't much substance to the meeting, to be honest with you. They basically said they want to make a presentation to the council, and we decided to let them do it. There were no real details discussed. There was no team named or anything.” Applegate noted by Thursday afternoon there was a Facebook page called “Bring the Sacramento Kings to Virginia Beach,” which had “several hundred ‘likes’” (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 8/24). Jones said, “We've been contacted by a company called Comcast and they want to talk to us about a professional sports team, but I honestly don't know which team it is” (SACBEE.com, 8/23).
LAYING A FOUNDATION: In Virginia Beach, Newswanger & Cresenzo in the initial report cited sources as saying that Comcast will “guarantee a 25-year lease on a new arena, supposedly for naming rights and for broadcasting the games.” Sources also said that, in order to finance the arena, the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association “indicated it would support a $1 hike in the lodging tax.” The ACC reportedly has “agreed to place Virginia Beach on its list as a future venue" for conference tournaments. The arena would be “adjacent to the former Norfolk Southern Corp. rail track and a proposed site for a light rail station” (INSIDEBIZ.com, 8/23). Sports architect HKS is also part of the arena development team in Virginia Beach, according to project officials. The Dallas firm is providing initial architectural services tied to the facility’s size and cost. HKS was a co-designer of American Airlines Center in Dallas and was hired earlier this year by the Red Wings to design a new NHL arena in downtown Detroit (Don Muret, SportsBusiness Journal). Sports consultant Andy Dolich said Comcast, Global Spectrum and Live Nation being involved in the project "makes it real." Dolich: "I think we're also playing a bit of horse race here to see if Sacramento can do even better for the Maloofs. Ultimately from a business deal, when you look at those potential partners, it must look like a much better deal to (the Maloofs) than what they have in Sacramento. That’s why I think it’s serious” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 8/23).
NEWS TO THEM: In Sacramento, Bizjak & Stanton in a front-page piece note Kings officials Thursday declined to respond to reports that the team will "join Comcast-Spectacor and Live Nation in pitching an arena proposal to Virginia Beach.” A Kings rep said that team officials "would not be in Virginia Beach when the City Council meets next week.” Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and NBA officials said that they have “gotten no word of any Kings involvement in the Virginia Beach proposal.” Sacramento City Council member Rob Fong: “To me, it seems pretty obvious that the Kings aren't that interested in staying in Sacramento. We thought we had a deal with them for a new arena, but they kept finding ways to say no to it. Then they said they wanted to rehab the current arena, but I've seen no plans to do that. It's fair to conclude that they are looking elsewhere” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 8/24). The Sacramento Bee’s Marcos Breton said Sacramento residents are not taking the Virginia Beach reports “real seriously yet.” However, fans who are not "in complete denial understand that it’s just a matter of time before the Maloofs tell the NBA they want to relocate." Breton: “Few people here believe them when they say that they love Sacramento and want to be here long term" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 8/23).
ALREADY SOME TIES EXIST: In Philadelphia, Bob Fernandez notes Comcast and the Kings “would not be strangers,” as the cable provider “carries Kings games on its CSN California regional sports network.” An NBA franchise in Virginia Beach “could be shown on a separate Comcast-owned regional sports network, SportsNet Mid-Atlantic” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/24). In N.Y., Nate Taylor notes the Maloof family has “until March 1 to file for relocation.” After that date, the NBA’s relocation committee would “inspect the application, and the team would need a majority vote from the board of governors for approval.” Sessoms said that while Virginia Beach is known as a summer tourist attraction, an NBA team “would help the city become a year-round destination” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/24). The Norfolk-Virginia Beach metro area would not be the smallest NBA market, as Memphis, New Orleans and Oklahoma City are all smaller (THE DAILY).
HITTING THE BEACH: Virginia-based WAVY-NBC's Josh Rader said a question remains as to whether the Virginia Beach market can "support a major league professional sports team," as there have been failed "attempts to bring NBA and NHL teams to this market." However, the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area is “probably, along with Las Vegas, the biggest market in the nation that does not have a major league sports franchise” ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 8/23). In Virginia, David Teel wrote, “Hey, good luck and Godspeed to Comcast and Virginia Beach. Watching a big-league sports franchise attempt to succeed in this fractured market would be, to say the least, intriguing” (DAILYPRESS.com, 8/23). In San Antonio, Dan McCarney noted the Kings and Virginia Beach “would be a bizarre pairing to say the least, especially with so many larger cities either in the process of building arenas (Seattle) or with ones already in place (Kansas City, Anaheim)” (MYSANANTONIO.com, 8/23).
The future of racing at Betfair Hollywood Park after the ‘13 spring-summer meeting “was cast in doubt on Thursday when track officials told the California Horse Racing Board that it would not commit to operating as a racetrack beyond July of next year,” according to Steve Andersen of the DAILY RACING FORM. Racing board officials asked Hollywood Park “to make a commitment for a spring-summer meeting, from late April to mid-July, and a fall meeting, in November and December of 2013.” But Hollywood Park officials said that they “could not commit to the fall 2013 meeting that far in advance.” The racing board “approved a racing calendar for the Southern California Thoroughbred circuit at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar and Fairplex Park for 2013, contingent on Hollywood Park announcing whether it will run in the fall by Jan. 1, 2013.” In case Hollywood Park does not commit to race that fall, the racing board “urged industry participants to come up with a contingency plan to accommodate the horses typically based at Hollywood Park and for a restructuring of the autumn racing calendar.” Meetings on the subject “are expected to be held in September and October.” If Hollywood Park closes, Fairplex Park and Los Alamitos “have been mentioned as alternative training locations, although issues related to financing and stabling space must be addressed.” Santa Anita is expected “to gain the racing dates for the late fall of 2013 in the event Hollywood Park closes” (DRF.com, 8/23).
The Georgia World Congress Center said that a deal to build a $948M retractable-roof football stadium for the Falcons “in downtown Atlanta could be reached by year's end,” according to Stafford & Tucker of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. It is “the strongest indication so far that negotiations” with the team “are closing in on an agreement to make a playing field become reality.” But some “obstacles remain that could prevent the Falcons from achieving their stated goal of opening the stadium by the 2017 season.” They include “a decision on its location, as well as changes going on in the political arena that could affect the funding the state previously said it would contribute toward construction.” The Falcons are “committed to play in the Georgia Dome until the bonds on the building are paid off.” The Georgia World Congress Center Authority said that the date is “scheduled to be 2020 but is on pace to occur as early as 2018.” If a new stadium “opens sooner, the Georgia Dome bonds would be paid off as part of any deal.” But a roadblock “could be waiting with the upcoming legislative session, which could see legislation threatening the GWCCA's plan to commit about $300 million to the stadium.” The GWCCA said that the Falcons "would be responsible for the remainder of the cost.” Georgia state Rep. Mike Dudgeon said that he is “considering legislation that could halt state support for the project, including blocking efforts to raise the GWCCA's borrowing ceiling, which is now at $200 million.” Stafford & Tucker note that would “prevent the GWCCA from raising the money through the bond market and paying it back with hotel-motel tax revenue.” A July poll “helps support Dudgeon's statement, showing that 67 percent of metro residents oppose using the hotel tax for a new stadium” (AJC.com, 8/24).
Miami-Dade County (Fla.) commissioners “unanimously agreed Thursday to place a question on the Nov. 6 ballot asking voters if they want to approve a nearly $50 million face-lift to the Crandon Park Tennis Center and a lease extension for the Sony Open Tennis Tournament,” according to Mazzei & Rabin of the MIAMI HERALD. The ballot question will “include a condition, put forth by tournament organizers, that the upgrades can only be paid for with tennis center and tournament revenues and private funds, not from the county’s general fund.” Organizers will need “a two-thirds majority to approve the proposal for the county to take the next steps.” The organizers said that their plans to “expand the tennis center’s existing main stadium and build the three permanent grandstands do not involve using new tourist tax dollars or reducing revenues the parks department receives from the annual tournament.” The renovations will be paid for “exclusively with revenues from parking surcharges, ticket fees and other tournament revenues” (MIAMI HERALD, 8/24).
The Daytona Beach Planning Board on Thursday “unanimously approved a rezoning measure that's needed for Daytona International Speedway and its parent company to push ahead with plans to dramatically improve the track facilities and add new hotels, restaurants, shops, movie theaters and nightclubs,” according to Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. With the vote, DIS' proposed sports and entertainment complex project that includes 483 acres “cleared another key hurdle.” The board's approval "comes just a few weeks after board members OK'd a similar measure for 180 acres of International Speedway Corporation land just north of the track on the other side of International Speedway Boulevard.” If city commissioners “agree in a series of meetings this fall with the requests to rezone the full 663 acres on both sides of the bustling thoroughfare from major sports district to planned master development, the Speedway will be able to chase its dream for the sprawling complex.” The planned master development rezoning for both properties “would allow the Speedway to build up to 2 million square feet of shops, restaurants and nightclubs; up to 1,785 hotel rooms; movie theaters with a combined maximum 5,000 seats; up to 1,600 multi-family residential units and 950,000 square feet of industrial uses.” The Speedway also “wants to add casino gambling on the two sites straddling International Speedway Boulevard” if gambling is legalized in the state of Florida (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 8/24).