NORFOLK, Va. - Virginia Beach doesn't have a deal in place yet for an NBA team to relocate to the city if it builds an 18,500 seat arena near the oceanfront, Mayor Will Sessoms said on Tuesday.
That lack of a commitment a day before the General Assembly convenes jeopardizes the city's chances of receiving state money to help build the arena and pay for the unidentified team's relocation costs, which city officials have said is necessary to get the team to move to Virginia's largest city.
The most likely target for relocation is the Sacramento Kings, which failed to reach an agreement to build a new arena there and has flirted with the possibility of moving to another city before.
Virginia Beach wants the state to contribute $150 million toward the project, with $70 million of that going toward arena construction costs. The other $80 million would go toward an expected $30 million league relocation fee, $8 million in corporate relocation costs and $42 million to offset lost revenue while the team plays in smaller arenas in Virginia for two years while a new arena is built.
The city would pay $242 million and sports and entertainment company Comcast- Spectacor would contribute $35 million.
Comcast-Spectacor would operate the arena and has been negotiating with the unidentified team to serve as its anchor tenant. Without a team agreeing to a long-term lease, no arena would be built. Until that's in place, Sessoms said he can't ask lawmakers to provide money for the project and that would effectively kill the proposal.
"We have not reached a level of progress that will allow the city to go before the General Assembly to request the necessary funding. If the city is to secure support from the state, which is critical to this project, we must have a firm proposal for the legislature to consider. We must make more progress with our discussions," Sessoms said in a joint statement with Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko.
While time to reach a deal is short, it hasn't run out.
The General Assembly meets through Feb. 23 and the deadline for an NBA team to file a relocation application is March 1.
The joint statement says the city and Comcast-Spectacor are still committed to the concept of an arena in Virginia Beach "and to continuing discussions with a potential anchor tenant."
"We're certainly keeping the door open," Sessoms said in an interview.
Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis
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