Kings heading to … Virginia Beach?!?

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…

9 comments on “Kings heading to … Virginia Beach?!?

  1. “We’ll know more next week, maybe. In the meantime, prepare the complete freakout in Sacramento in three, two…”

    If Sacramento doesn’t have enough money to pay for a new Kings arena, then they don’t have enough money to pay for a new baseball stadium that the mayor talked about building. As for the Kings moving to Virginia Beach, I will believe it if the press conference scheduled for this Wednesday takes place as scheduled. Right now, I am taking this news with a grain of salt.

  2. Sounds like they’re trying to freak out Sacramento or Seattle into making a deal, “Before this slips through our hands!”.

    Really, three teams competing for the team is better than 2, especially since Sacramento isn’t even trying any more. It’s really two cities competing for one team, and the current location is just temporary.

    But, golly, what about Ron Burkle? Didn’t KJ say “We got Burkle”? No, I never believed that one either. Burkle would have bought it for a lower price than the Maloofs ever would have accepted. The Maloofs are now just going to take the best deal, and that will not involve Sacramento.

  3. Census figures I see list Virginia City at 1.6M in the metro area, and Richmond isn’t that far away, with a metro area of 1.2M. The two cities don’t seem that far apart — it’d be about like people from Stockton driving to Sacramento to see a Kings game.

    I don’t know, Neil. My first thought was also, Yeah, right, Virginia City… Bull. But the more I look into it, the less implausible it seems.

  4. Why would the Maloofs move to Virginia Beach when they potentially could receive a better deal in Newark-the Nets waived their territorial rights in exchange for playing at the Prudential Center for the last two seasons, the NBA just held their draft there (and thinks the building is more than suitable for a NBA team) and the Maloofs could get a lucrative broadcast deal from either SNY (partially owned by Comcast) or MSG (in exchange for waiving their territorial rights).

    This “announcement” seems to be designed to put pressure on Sacramento only.

    Finally, where would the Kings play temporarily if they did move-the Scope in Norfolk was built in the 1960’s and is more antiquated and out of date than the Nassau Coliseum.

    Stay tuned.

  5. It did occur to me that the timing of this is interesting, given that Seattle is set to vote on Hansen’s arena plan soon. But while I could spin a conspiracy theory involving Comcast and Live Nation ginning up a Virginia Beach plan in exchange for getting management rights to a Seattle arena once it gets built, I don’t see what would be in it for Virginia Beach politicians. Except maybe some “Look, they mentioned us on the telly!” notoriety.

    Right now it’s just a single unnamed source, though, no matter how detailed the report is. For what it’s worth, Bill Simmons claims it’s just Virginia Beach trying to get some attention:

    If so, it’s going to be interesting to see what they do next Wednesday when they hold a press conference and the Maloofs don’t show up…

  6. Not sure what pressure people think this will put on Sacramento. Sacramento already gave the Maloofs everything but the kitchen sink in the last proposed deal. It was easily the sweetest deal they’re going to get in California these days. And the broke ass brothers scoffed at it. There’s nothing more to be had from Sac, particularly as long as the 3 stooges are still running the show.

  7. Dan, I don’t think this designed to put pressure on Sacramento.

    Farther north. Seattle.

    Sacramento’s not competing to keep the Kings. They made an overly-generous offer that the Maloofs refused. Subsequent offers were unlikely to be more generous. The gap has only grown.

    Neil, I don’t know if you read this, but the Westfield-owned Sacramento Downtown Plaza sold last week. I can’t remember who bought it (it was a firm in SF), but the purchase price was $22M, according to tax records. So we’re supposed to believe the parking was worth $200M while the shopping area was worth only $22M? That makes absolutely no sense at all. $50M, maybe. $100M, I doubt it. $200M, have another one.

    Had they proceeded to the “Let’s get bids for our parking!”-phase, that would have been the first point-of-failure — a huge shortfall of City funds. I don’t know where things would have gone from there. It’s possible the Maloofs saw that one coming too.

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