Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Virginia State News

December 7, 2012

McDonnell budget proposal to exclude arena funding

NORFOLK, Va. — Gov. Bob McDonnell will not include $150 million in his proposed budget to help bring an NBA team to Virginia Beach, a spokesman said on Friday.

Virginia Beach is considering building a $300 million, 18,500-seat arena near the oceanfront to persuade an unnamed professional sports team to relocate there. The city asked the state to pay $70 million for construction and $80 million toward the unidentified team’s relocation costs. A likely target for relocation would be the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, which failed to reach an agreement to build a new arena there this spring.

Without state assistance, city officials have said the arena deal would be dead.

In the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s response to Virginia Beach’s request for funding assistance, VEDP President Martin Riley wrote that there’s currently no source of funding for the $70 million in construction costs the city asked for.

“Should the city have a detailed financing plan, or alternative plans, that provide more clarity on what the revenue sources are for building the arena and how they will be applied to retire the city’s debt obligation, this would certainly be helpful for the administration to receive,” Riley wrote.

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said that while the governor supports efforts to bring a professional sports franchise to the area, it must be economically justifiable. McDonnell appeared in a video saying the time was right to bring a pro team to Virginia when the project was first unveiled in August, but there were no detailed financial requests at the time.

“Virginia Beach officials were informed this afternoon that the governor’s budget amendments will not provide resources for this project at this time, as the VEDP analysis is ongoing,” Martin wrote in a statement.

McDonnell will give his budget proposal Dec. 17 and the General Assembly will convene in January. City officials have said they would need to formally approve the construction of an arena in February or March. The NBA deadline to file an application to move is March 1.

On Tuesday, the Virginia Beach City Council will vote on whether to keep negotiating with Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment company Comcast-Spectacor to try to lure an NBA or NHL team to town that would serve as the arena’s primary tenant. Comcast-Spectacor would lease and operate the arena for 25 years.

Among other things, the non-binding city resolution says the framework for any agreement would be based upon the state providing sufficient funds.

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