Well, this came out of nowhere. From Inside Business: The Hampton Roads Business Journal:
The owners of the Sacramento Kings, an NBA franchise, and officials from Philadelphia-based Comcast-Spectacor are expected to be in Virginia Beach Tuesday to propose moving the team to the resort city and for Comcast to help build and lease a new pro sports arena…
Media giant Comcast will guarantee a 25-year lease on a new arena, supposedly for naming rights and for broadcasting the games, sources said. Comcast owns NBC and Global Spectrum, which operates arenas and stadiums across the country including the Ted Constant Convocation Center at Old Dominion University.
City officials and the Maloof family are expected to announce Wednesday, Aug. 29, that the Kings will land in Virginia Beach, sources said.
The obvious question is … well, okay, the first obvious question is: Virginia Beach? Really? The Norfolk area media market would be one of the smallest in the NBA (ahead of Oklahoma City, Memphis, and New Orleans but behind Greenville, Harrisburg, and Grand Rapids), and Virginia’s only experience with pro basketball didn’t end well. (Only experience with men’s pro basketball, I should say; its experience with women’s pro hoops didn’t go much better.) And the metro area is barely half the size of Sacramento, which was already considered small-market by NBA standards.
Of course, a lucrative enough arena deal could lure a team anywhere, so what exactly is Virginia Beach offering there? Inside Business reports that “the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association has indicated it would support a $1 hike in the lodging tax,” which is all very well and good, but probably wouldn’t come close to paying for a new arena. And then there’s the fact that Global Spectrum and Live Nation are expected to be in charge of running any arena, and presumably they’re not in the business of signing sweetheart leases that hand over arena revenues in order to lure a team.
So coming up for the money for this is going to be a challenge, to say the least, and could likely involve even more public money than a $1 hotel tax hike. Recall that Rick Horrow went down this road before in Hampton Roads, and was rebuffed — though admittedly he didn’t have an actual NBA franchise to dangle in front of the city council.
We’ll know more next week, maybe. In the meantime, prepare the complete freakout in Sacramento in three, two…