SBD/August 30, 2012/Facilities

Virginia Beach Quietly Spends Almost $700,000 Studying Plans For Arena, Pro Team

Some council members were surprised to hear money had been spent on arena study
The Virginia Beach economic development authority has “quietly spent nearly $700,000 in the past 18 months laying plans behind closed doors to build a large arena and attract a major professional sports team,” according to Aaron Applegate of the Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT. The authority held “multiple discussions in closed session about work being done" by Dallas-based architecture firm HKS. Virginia Beach Economic Development Dir Warren Harris said that HKS' “four contracts with the authority were approved in closed session.” A city council member said that City Manager Jim Spore “discussed the arena proposal in a private meeting days before the City Council's Aug. 3 retreat.” The council member said that Spore referred to the city “or one of its consultants being in talks with [NBA] Kings representatives and that the arena project would need to be fast-tracked for a vote by council in October or November.” Some city council members “were surprised to learn Wednesday the authority was spending money on the arena project.” Council member Bill DeSteph said, "We spent $700,000? I did not know that. That's ridiculous. We should know about that." Others said that the city council “doesn't need to know everything the authority is doing.” Council member Jim Wood said, "It's the function of the development authority to look at things like this, and I have no problem with it.” Harris said that so far, “$678,400 has been spent.” Expenses included “public relations, marketing, coordination of negotiations with the NBA and NHL, formation of a local advocacy group, development of financing models, marketing studies for premium seating, naming rights and corporate sponsorships, public opinion research, and economic impact studies, including the one done by" Old Dominion Univ. economics professor James Koch (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 8/30).

THINKING BIG PICTURE: In Virginia, Tom Robinson writes, “No Maloof sightings in Virginia Beach on Wednesday. None to be confirmed, at least.” A rumored appearance by a member of the NBA Kings ownership “allegedly to announce to the City Council their intention to move the Kings here -- did not occur.” Robinson: “Could it still happen? Certainly. But it's hardly as easy as walking before the council to say the vans are on the way.” Council member Glenn Davis “allowed himself to think big” yesterday. Davis: “I would imagine if we get one (team) and it has the success that Comcast-Spectacor and Live Nation think it will, that the other (league) would follow within four or five years” (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 8/30). Also in Virginia, David Teel wrote he would “love to see” the ACC basketball tournament in Virginia Beach. Harris said that city officials “met last winter with ACC representatives to discuss the arena project.” Teel noted if the city built an arena, “the soonest it could host an ACC tournament is 2022.” The adjacent Convention Center “would be ideal for the conference’s Fan Fest” (DAILYPRESS.com, 8/29).

DUE DILIGENCE: A Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT editorial states, “When someone offers to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in your backyard, you owe it to yourself and your neighbors to consider it carefully. … Before we get all starry-eyed -- or reflexively say no -- we need to know the details, which city leaders and the companies say have yet to be negotiated” (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 8/30).
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