Oceanfront arena developer gets green light, extension granted

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City council voted 9-1 in favor of granting the arena developer a 60-day extension to create a funding mechanism that satisfies its agreement with the city. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

City council voted 9-1 in favor of granting the arena developer a 60-day extension to create a funding mechanism that satisfies its agreement with the city. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

An arena at the Oceanfront is still a possibility.

In a 9-1 vote, city council passed a resolution to grant a 60-day extension for arena developer United States Management, LLC to organize a new loan commitment.

The city has an agreement with USM to keep costs at no more than $170 million and provide at least $30 million in equity and $10 million of working capital at a minimum, according to council member John Moss. Now, USM has 60 days to come up with a funding mechanism that meets those terms.

“I’m hoping they can meet the terms,” said Moss in an interview. “At some point the extensions are over, but this is reasonable, and I’m not willing to modify that agreement.”

On the subject of programming, Moss said the arena couldn’t be privately built if a professional sports team entered the equation, because the league would want all the revenue. Moss said he would be just as happy to have college basketball.

The only one who voted against the extension was city council member Barbara Henley, who said she was blindsided by the possibility of revisiting arena plans at her town hall meeting Oct. 28.

“I’m very much concerned that we’re required to provide an enormous amount of parking for 60 years, there’s no money in here for parking garages and I certainly think they’re going to have to deal with that,” said Henley. “I think it reflects all of the costs and total responsibility the city’s going to have … I just can’t support it.”

Barbara Messner speaks against the arena

Barbara Messner said the city does not need an arena, or the Light Rail to get there. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

Among the three members of the public who spoke against the arena, Barbara Messner said the money for this project, and the light rail, should be invested in better city infrastructure.

“It is not a need, it’s a want,” said Messner in an interview. “There are people who have lost everything … there is no return on this investment, it’s only debt.”

The meeting adjourned after someone who voiced their concerns against city council said “screw you” to Mayor William Sessoms during the public comment session of the meeting.

The arena’s original proposed financing deal was shot down by city council Oct. 4 after council members Louis Jones, John Moss and Barbara Henley voted against it. It needed a super majority to pass because it involved the transfer of 5.8 acres of city-owned land to the Virginia Beach Development Authority.

The arena’s cost estimate is around $200 million.

Contact Justin Belichis at justin@southsidedaily.com

Correction: A previous version of this story said the extension passed in a 10-1 vote. Council member James Wood was not at the meeting and did not vote.

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