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Virginia Beach looks to lure NBA or NHL team

By Brock Vergakis

Associated Press

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach economic development officials revealed an ambitious plan Tuesday to build a $350 million arena at the city’s oceanfront and draw an NBA or NHL team to Virginia’s largest city.

Virginia Beach Director of Economic Development Warren Harris briefed City Council members on a proposal to build an 18,500-seat arena across the street from the city’s convention center in the heart of the community’s resort district.

It’s unclear exactly who would pay for the arena’s construction, although it would be built on city-owned land and Harris suggested it would involve state and local funding. City officials say a stadium could be built with a pro basketball or hockey team playing in it as early as 2015.

Virginia Beach officials have quietly been pursuing a major sports team for the past year. Harris said he met with NBA and NHL officials this spring to tout the area as a viable marketplace and was told that once an arena is built, a city becomes very attractive to teams looking to move. He said he’s been told of several teams that could relocate to the area, although he declined to specify which ones or say which NBA or NHL representatives he met with.

He suggested the opportunity to lure a pro team to Virginia is a once-in-a-lifetime event. He said economic development officials must make a recommendation to the council on whether to pursue an arena in the next 60 days, in part, because of competitive concerns with other cities as well as to get in line for possible state funding.

“This is a small window of opportunity, and I mean very small,” Harris said. “If we can’t make a decision within 60 days I think then the ultimate decision will be we can’t do it.”

It’s unclear what state support would be needed to land an arena and a team, but Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell indicated his willingness to help. He filmed a segment for Tuesday’s presentation saying, “We’re ready for major league sports. The time is right.”

Under the proposal, the Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment company Comcast-Spectacor would lease and manage the arena for 25 years. Comcast-Spectacor owns the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey, and the Wells Fargo Center.

Harris said the Virginia Beach and Richmond areas together represent a designated market area of 3 million people.

Although Virginia Beach and Richmond are about 100 miles apart, Harris said that’s similar to the distance between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, home to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. Economic development officials noted that data from the Virginia Beach Amphitheater shows that 18 percent of that venue’s customers are already from the Richmond area, which indicates they’re willing to drive two hours through some of the state’s most congested roads for entertainment.

No specific pro franchises were mentioned during Tuesday’s meeting, although Comcast-Spectacor would be responsible for pursuing the primary tenant.

“I have met with various officials with the NBA and NHL just to make them aware that this may be a possibility and that we’d be getting back to them with further detail,” Peter Luuko, president of Comcast-Spectacor told reporters following Tuesday’s meeting. “Really the detail was in selling the marketplace and this is a big market that is underserved right now.”

It’s also a market with little competition. There isn’t another major league team within a 200-mile radius and no major college conference athletic program is within 175 miles.

Harris also said the arena might serve as a host site to the Atlantic Coast Conference’s basketball tournament as well as concerts and other special events. Harris said while it is feasible that an arena could survive without an NBA or NHL team as its primary tenant, the goal is to have one lined up before moving forward with construction.

The presentation says the arena would draw 1.4 million annual visitors and host over 200 annual events, creating an economic impact of $98 million in its first year.

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Virginia Beach looks to lure NBA or NHL team

By Brock Vergakis

Associated Press

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia Beach economic development officials revealed an ambitious plan Tuesday to build a $350 million arena at the city’s oceanfront and draw an NBA or NHL team to Virginia’s largest city.

Wow... is the area able to support a hockey team? Maybe nothing within 200 miles, but you have to figure there are the Caps, Canes, Flyers and Devils all relatively close and previously established fan bases... I dunno...

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@sarsippius I don't understand what Comcast stands to gain from this proposal...why *introduce* compitition for yourself?

Another thing, why does almost every new arena propose a 18,000- 18,500 seating capacity? If you are gonna dream...dream big, why not 20,000? Usually, teams build 18,000 and end up spending millions renovating and squeezing out a few more seats. If you are a big time team, with big dreams....builid it like you mean it! 30 years after Joe Louis was built, it's an outdated building and they want more seating....you gotta plan it out right and think big. Toronto is in the same boat, they sell out every game and if they had 2,000 more seats, they would still sell out. Maybe it comes down to proper viewing, but I can't believe in this day and age they can't construct a building with 20,000 seats with perfect site lines. Most new buildings have a ton of luxury boxes (where the real money is), but the lack of seating has always puzzled me....it's guaranteed cash...why pass it up?

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@sarsippius I don't understand what Comcast stands to gain from this proposal...why *introduce* compitition for yourself?

Another thing, why does almost every new arena propose a 18,000- 18,500 seating capacity? If you are gonna dream...dream big, why not 20,000? Usually, teams build 18,000 and end up spending millions renovating and squeezing out a few more seats. If you are a big time team, with big dreams....builid it like you mean it! 30 years after Joe Louis was built, it's an outdated building and they want more seating....you gotta plan it out right and think big. Toronto is in the same boat, they sell out every game and if they had 2,000 more seats, they would still sell out. Maybe it comes down to proper viewing, but I can't believe in this day and age they can't construct a building with 20,000 seats with perfect site lines. Most new buildings have a ton of luxury boxes (where the real money is), but the lack of seating has always puzzled me....it's guaranteed cash...why pass it up?

Because its not competition in Comcast's eyes... It's another market to sell air time in. As I said in the other topic about expanding the league, the more markets the more Comcast makes.

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Because its not competition in Comcast's eyes... It's another market to sell air time in. As I said in the other topic about expanding the league, the more markets the more Comcast makes.

Yep, I completely agree with that statement. I think though this arena will first be marketed for the NBA. But you have to figure with DC and the Hurricanes success, putting another team between them makes some sense. Chances are the league will expand to 32 teams with Seattle and Quebec getting the teams. Planning for the future in a site like the Richmond area provides some competition to move a struggling franchise as the Blue Jackets.

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I dunno...I don't see a market for any major league franchise in VA Beach..I'm not buying people are going to drive 2 hours-one way, several times a week. Heck, gas will be 6 bucks a gallon by the time the arena is built, at the going rate.

I could be very wrong, but I this appears to be a recipe for failure. Regardless of what league settles there...

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