Virginia Beach Drops Bid For Arena; Mayor Says No "Clear Opportunity" At This Point
A proposed deal for a Virginia Beach arena "is dead for now," after months of talks between an NBA team and Comcast-Spectacor "failed to yield an agreement that city officials could have taken to the General Assembly to make a pitch for state funds,"according to a front-page piece by Aaron Applegate of the Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT. Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said, "The city doesn't see a clear opportunity at this point and, as such, it's not something we're aggressively going after." Sessoms said that Comcast-Spectacor will "continue to negotiate with the team," largely believed to be the Kings, regarding the 18,500-seat arena. The "deal structure" was for the city to put in $241M, the state $150M and Comcast-Spectacor $35M. That money included $80M "to be paid to the team for relocation costs." City Council member Glenn Davis said, "It's not that we're walking away from the opportunity. It's that we're in a holding pattern until a deal structure is given to us by Comcast" (Norfolk VIRGINIAN-PILOT, 1/9). Sessoms said, "This just ain't gonna work at this point in time. The city will not be chasing this deal." He said that he "wasn't sure what the sticking points were." In Sacramento, Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis note all "parties agree the team needs to replace antiquated Sleep Train Arena," the home of the Kings. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson yesterday said that he is willing to talk to team Owner the Maloof family as "long as they'll accept the deal that was on the table last spring." With the door "closing in Virginia, one possible alternative is a move to Seattle, where hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen, backed by Nordstrom and Microsoft money, has a tentative deal to build a $400 million arena." A potential "sticking point: Hansen wants to buy a team." A source said that the Maloofs "won't sell the Kings" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/9).
TRUTH OF THE MATTER: NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper wrote it was "questionable whether the Kings would have jumped coasts even under the best of circumstances -- Virginia Beach would have been a small market with no recent history of major-league sports, no local ownership, and looking to energize a fan base long-term with a team that has been rowing in circles for years." Under these "circumstances, though, it was the equivalent of trying to buy a house without any idea of how much the bank was willing to lend." In truth, the Maloof family was "never emotionally invested in Virginia Beach as much as listening to offers in the never-ending search for a solution to the stalemate in Sacramento" (NBA.com, 1/8). In Norfolk, Tom Robinson wrote there is "really nothing that says this whole dance won’t be repeated in the next 12 months -- because word on the NBA street is the Maloofs would like to move their team without selling it" (PILOTONLINE.com, 1/8).