Virginia Beach arena report redacts actual numbers, council to vote in secret, democracy cries

Something appears to be wrong with Virginia Beach’s arena financing plans — I mean, something aside from all the hidden public costs it will come with. The Virginian-Pilot has a very odd report out today that — you know, let’s just dig in and try to figure it out as we go along:

A new report says the city should move full steam ahead with building a sports and entertainment arena near the Oceanfront.

But the public won’t get a detailed explanation for how Johnson Consulting arrived at that conclusion because many of the financial predictions upon which it’s based have been redacted from the report.

Wait, redacted? Redacting financial predictions from a financial prediction report would seem to be very odd behavior, even in the rarefied world of economic impact consulting, where facts that don’t conform to the desired result must be disposed of. Tell us more, Virginian-Pilot!

“The Hampton Roads region has been starved for a venue of this size and quality for quite some time,” the report said.

“Virginia Beach does extremely well as a tourism destination, but adding an arena to the existing tourism infrastructure could allow for even greater economic benefits for the City.”

Okay, right, report is happy about the prospects of a new arena! But just reprinting its conclusions without noting its methodology — which you already said is murky — isn’t getting us anywhere. What else you got?

United States Management has outlined its finances and projected sales numbers to the city, but has said that an exemption in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act allows it to keep proprietary information confidential.

“Proprietary information”? What would that be? Also, since when do economic impact statements need to be acquired by filing a Freedom of Information Act request — if the city council is discussing it, isn’t it public record by definition?

The City Council will meet in closed session tonight to discuss the project’s finances.

Oh. Well, then.

After meeting in secret, the council is expected to vote on October 4 on whether to throw about $200 million in subsidies — $76.5 million in land and infrastructure spending, plus another $8.5 million a year in tax kickbacks — at an arena that will only cost $200 million to build. The council approved this once last year already, but since then the financing details changed slightly (who’s lending the money, not who’s paying it off), so they have to vote again. Not where anyone can see them, though. That would be gauche.

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3 comments on “Virginia Beach arena report redacts actual numbers, council to vote in secret, democracy cries

  1. We had a Mayor that pushed for a Arena in our city. We ended up on the hook for millions of dollars, the Arena defaulted and sold at a loss big time with us – the taxpayers – ending up taking it in the shorts. Do not trust these people who will not make things public or allow citizens to have a voice.

  2. “Could allow” greater economic benefits does not equal “will create” greater economic benefits.

    Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and clearly VaB arena plan has a bad case of the cooties…

    Will the Councillors even get to see the real numbers? Whether or not they would understand them is another matter, but still. Chalk up another one for government of the people etc.

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