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).