Virginia Beach Mayor Sets Monday Deadline For Lease Agreement With Pro Sports Team
Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms has "set a Monday deadline to have a lease signed with a professional sports team -- widely reported to be the Sacramento Kings -- or he'll pull the plug on the city's arena efforts for this year," according to Tony Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Sessoms has been "pushing a plan" for a $300M-plus arena in Virginia Beach. He said that he has "informed the city's private partner, arena operator Comcast-Spectacor, he wants an agreement now." Sessoms: "We have a timeline that is right upon us to go to the state to ask for a substantial amount of money. We are not going to go up there and make a fool of ourselves. I need to know something by Monday." Virginia Beach officials said that two state General Assembly representatives are prepared to request $150M in state funds to "help to build the arena when the Assembly reconvenes Wednesday -- but only if Comcast reaches a deal with the team." The Kings have "repeatedly declined to comment on the speculation that they are the team in play." But attorney Eric Rose, who represents Kings Owner the Maloof family, has acknowledged that team representatives "have been in contact with several cities interested in luring the team." The Virginia General Assembly is in session "only from next week until the third week of February," and state funding requests "need to be made in the next two weeks." A second deadline "looms just after that," as the NBA "generally requires teams to request permission by March 1 to relocate to a new city that year." But the league in the past has "extended that deadline." Sessoms on Thursday said that he "believes Virginia Beach and the team will get a favorable hearing from the NBA board of governors if the team makes a relocation request next month" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/4).
DOWN IN SAC-TOWN: In Sacramento, Tom Couzens writes the Kings "have struggled attracting fans to Sleep Train Arena nearly as much as they have on the basketball court this season." The Kings through 17 home games "remain mired near the bottom in the league in home attendance," as their average of 13,274 tops only the Pistons' 13,258. While a "backlash against the Kings' owners and the uncertainly over the team's future have contributed to the fans' indifference, the low attendance isn't all the Kings' fault." Each of the Kings' Sunday home games in December "were on the same day as big 49ers games." When sports fans are "forced to choose between attending a Kings game this early in the season or watching the 49ers or the national college football championship on TV, it's really a no-brainer" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/4).