Sorry for two days of nothing but Atlanta Braves news, but it kind of took over my brain, along with that of the rest of the sports media. (Here’s my latest for Sports on Earth on the whole mess; more on that a bit later.) But surely something else less crazy must be going on in the sports stadium and arena world, right?
No, no, I said less crazy. Come on, anybody?
The concept of building an 18,000-seat arena at the Oceanfront [in Virginia Beach] that fell apart earlier this year is back with a new player.
Okay, that’ll have to do. Virginia Beach, you’ll recall, last year proposed building a $426 million arena with $391 million in public money, possibly to lure the Sacramento Kings, before the whole thing fell apart when it turned out the state of Virginia wasn’t eager to give them $150 million to help pay for the thing. Then last month there was talk of mysterious Chinese investors, and yesterday the Virginia Beach city council actually voted on, um, something?
W.M. Jordan Co., one of the region’s biggest construction firms, has submitted to the city a proposal with partners to build an arena next to the city’s convention center…
“In talking with various folks, we felt an arena would work without a franchise,” said John Lawson, president and CEO of W.M. Jordan.
He said an existing arena might help attract a team to Virginia Beach, and the building would be constructed so it could be modified to accommodate a team. He said it could open at the end of 2016.
Okay, that’s nice and all that a construction company wants to construct something, but who’s going to pay for this exactly?
Lawson declined to provide financing details about the proposed public-private partnership that would be used to build it. He said that information will come out later. He did say in an email it would be “substantially” cheaper.
“I’m very confident when the financial details are made public that the public will easily understand the financial arrangement and be supportive,” Lawson said.
Oh, one of those proposals. This really is the week for that sort of thing, isn’t it?
If there’s anything to the “substantially cheaper” thing, it sounds like W.M. Jordan may be looking at something along the lines of Oklahoma City’s arena, which was first built for a bargain-basement $89 million without luxury suites or other facilities for a big-league sports team, then later got a $112 million upgrade when the Thunder came to town. It’s not a terrible idea for a small market, though given the economics of concerts vs. sports, Virginia Beach might be better off just skipping the team and booking as much music as it can. Not that that’s still likely to pay off an arena’s construction costs, but at least Katy Perry pays rent.
Not to leave any stones unturned, the Virginia Beach council gave anyone else who feels like building an arena 60 days to submit their own proposals. Because you never know when some more mystery Chinese investors might be lurking out there, just waiting to build an arena for the nation’s 44th largest TV market.