VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Beach City Council gave Comcast-Specator its verbal consent Tuesday, to move forward with negotiations to bring a sports arena and anchor tenant to the Beach.
Peter Luukko, President and COO of Comcast-Spectacor, came to council chambers to get the group's nonbinding support. With the approval of city council, Luukko can tell an unnamed professional sports team that the city is on board with the deal.
"It's important to get support of city council today to move forward in talks with the anchor tenant," Luukko said.
Luukko could not reveal the major league team Comcast-Spectacor has been speaking to, although WAVY has previously reported that team is likely the Sacramento Kings.
The deadline for an NBA team's relocation is reportedly in March, the same month city council is expected to hold a final vote on the arena.
During the meeting, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms requested the formation of a citizens committee to weigh in on the project by the end of December. Several council members expressed the desire to have more citizens take part in the process.
The only outspoken opponent Tuesday was Councilman Bill DeSteph who is concerned about the amount taxpayers will have to contribute to fund the construction of the arena.
An increased hotel tax and a $2 ticket fee were also suggested as ways to pay for the project.
Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association voted Monday to unanimously support a one-percent hotel tax increase. Mayor Sessoms says the increase will give the city a $2.8 million "cushion."
According to Sessoms, the total estimated cost for the arena will be $426 million and breaks down as follows:
"That is a lot of money, and I really don't feel it's appropriate for the public to pay that much, especially when the primary role of government is public safety, education and infrastructure," said DeSteph. "This doesn't fall in any of those and we're under-funding those right now."
Mayor Sessoms maintains that taxes will not have to be increased to make the project work.
The majority of the council is overwhelmingly supportive of the project. Their verbal nonbinding consent allows Comcast Spectacor to work on landing an anchor tenant, a major league team, that Luukko says is showing a strong commitment, so far.
If there is a commitment from a major league team, then the council could vote on the arena proposal. But that is a long way away.
The next step is a nonbinding formal vote next Tuesday at the council meeting.