City takes ‘major step’ toward arena that could host concerts, ACC tournament

The Virginia Beach City Council has reached a tentative agreement with developers to build an 18,000-seat arena that officials hope will host major recording artists in the winter and the Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament in the spring.

An artist's rendering of the proposed sports and entertainment arena in Virginia Beach. (Photo Courtesy City of Virginia Beach.)
An artist’s rendering of the proposed sports and entertainment arena in Virginia Beach. (Courtesy of city of Virginia Beach.)

The council met Monday night behind closed doors, and Mayor Will Sessoms made the announcement after opening them. He did not provide many details, saying more would be revealed at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, which begins at 4 p.m. He said he expects to see final details “in black and white” shortly before that meeting in another closed session.

The deal would still require public input and council approval.

“This is not a done deal, but it is a major step forward,” Sessoms said.

The next steps are likely to begin Tuesday when the council and public are briefed in full, he said. There will also be a public presentation of the terms at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 at the Convention Center, and a public hearing at the council’s Dec. 1 meeting.

The council is scheduled to vote on the deal on Dec. 8, Sessoms said. Nine of the council’s 11 members must approve the deal because it would be built on city property, near the Convention Center on 19th Street.

Asked if at least nine members want to approve it, Sessoms said, “We wouldn’t be at this point if there wasn’t a solid group of councilmembers saying, ‘Move forward.’ ”

While public feedback will be sought before the council vote, Sessoms said the terms are unlikely to be amended because of the deal’s complexity, which involves a Chinese bank, among other players.

Under previously announced terms, United States Management LLC will build, finance, operate and own the $210 million stadium with the help of those bankers and other groups.

The city’s role involves spending $78 million from its Tourism Investment Program on infrastructure improvements and allowing USM to keep tax revenue that is generated by ticket sales.

Sessoms called the long-negotiated arena “a game-changer” for Virginia Beach tourism. He said it could host the ACC men’s basketball tournament – one of his goals – and major concerts in the winter, when the city’s outdoor amphitheater cannot.

“So, we got our options now,” Sessoms said.

USM representatives said in a statement late Monday they are “optimistic” the agreement will yield a sports and entertainment arena in Virginia Beach and that they are excited about its potential.

Sessoms would not discuss the final conditions that were negotiated between a closed council meeting on Nov. 3 and the one Monday, but he said at least one has been “figured out” — parking. The arena will share parking spaces with the Convention Center, a scenario that raises questions over how that will affect the schedules of both venues.

Sessoms said the arena is one way the city can diversify its economy in an era of decreased defense spending. A proposed biomedical research park at Princess Anne Commons is another way to do that, he said.

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