Va. Beach ponders if it has future in pro sports

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm •  Published: December 10, 2012
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Moving a team from Sacramento to Virginia Beach would mean moving it from the country's 20th largest media market to its 44th, according to Nielsen company. But arena backers note that because Virginia doesn't have another professional sports team, the Virginia Beach designated market area could be combined with Richmond's to make it the 21st largest just behind Sacramento for the purpose of televising games and broadcast rights.

For the first two years while the arena would be built the team could also play some games in Richmond.

Generating support for the arena and the team outside of Virginia Beach is crucial to any deal to build an arena. The deal the city will vote on Tuesday would require state funding. Without it, city officials have said the deal would be dead. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell supports bringing a pro sports franchise to the region, but he didn't include any funding for it in his 2013 budget proposal. However, that could change during the legislative session. The city has asked for $150 million from the state, with $70 million going toward construction of the arena and $80 million toward the franchise's relocation costs.

In an effort to help earn state lawmakers' support, Virginia Beach paid for an economic study that says an NBA team would support about 3,700 jobs in Virginia and that the state government would receive nearly $11 million in tax revenue each year. The proposed deal with Comcast-Spectacor calls for an NBA or NHL team signing a 25-year lease with the company taking care of the arena's annual operating costs, as well as chipping in $35 million for arena construction. The city would pay the rest.

Under the proposal being considered Tuesday, Comcast-Spectacor would lease and operate the arena for 25 years. No arena would be built without a pro sports team's commitment to relocating.

For NBA fans like Chris O'Brien, a 25-year-old Chesapeake resident who started a Bring the Sacramento Kings to Virginia Beach Facebook page and Twitter account, the timing seems right.

"People that say that we can't do it or that this area just can't handle it, I think that's kind of old-fashioned thinking. You've got to spend money to make money, is what they say," he said.

On Tuesday, O'Brien will find out if the city agrees with him.

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Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis