By Bruce Rader
The Olympics are behind us, the football season is still a few days away, but today is Opening Day for a new sporting event of sorts in Hampton Roads. The race to build an 18,000 seat arena in Virginia Beach anchored by a major league sports team.
Don’t get too excited this afternoon when the president’s of Comcast-Spectacor and Live Nation Arenas go before the Virginia Beach City Council and as ask to start a conversation regarding building a arena in the resort city.
All they are going to ask to do is start a conversation.
There will be no announcement of an arena, there will be no guarantee that the Sacramento Kings or any other NBA or NHL team has agreed to move into the arena. If fact, it will probably be made very clear by everyone that today is just a day to get the conversation started and that there a lot of steps to go.
In our “lay everything on the table today and let’s take a vote mentality”, this will be disappointing to many who have heard the leaks, and have already started to debate the pro’s and con’s of the potential project, going so far as speculating on a name for Virginia Beach’s new NBA team.
Contrary to what some businessmen close to the project say, sources tell me neither NBA Commissioner David Stern or anyone else in his office has been to Virginia Beach. The NBA owners do not like moving teams around, and there is a very formal process that has to go through involving all the owners before the OK is given for a team like the Kings to leave Sacramento and go to Virginia Beach or any other city. And the process won’t even begin until the city agrees to build the building, and the owners of the team file a relocation application.
Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Philadelphia Flyers, the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and ironically the food service company Ovations, has close ties to professional sports team, and wants to manage the new Virginia Beach arena if it is built. The Mayor of Virginia Beach, Will Sessoms told me last week Comcast-Spectacor guaranteed a “major league sports franchise” as the main tenant if Virginia Beach builds the building. But I don’t think Comcast-Spectacor is ready to go public with that today.
By the way, if the food service company Ovations sounds familiar, the Comcast-Spectacor owned company is led by, who else, company founder Ken Young the principal owner of the Norfolk Tides and Norfolk Admirals.
As far as today’s presentation, don’t expect anyone to leave too many cards on the table. Comcast-Spectacor and Live Nations, and even Warren Harris, the director of Economic Development for the City are just going to inform council that the two sides want to start talking, and more information will be forth coming. In fact, I would assume there won’t be a final proposal until sometime in October. In the perfect world a final decision may be reached by mid November but may linger on until the end of the year.
So don’t expect any bomb shell announcement’s today, in fact don’t be surprised at all if the words “Sacramento Kings” don’t even come up.
A project like this will involve long negotiations, a lot of time and a lot of political posturing.
And as for today, Let the Games Begin.