The Virginia Beach City Council voted today to continue its pursuit of the Sacramento Kings, despite an initial rebuff for a state subsidy from the governor.
The council voted 9-2 to continue negotiations with arena developer Comcast-Spectacor.
The vote came four days after Gov. Bob McDonnell said he wouldn't include the city's request for a $150 million subsidy in his 2013 budget proposal. Without the subsidy, the plan is likely dead.
Council members said the governor's statement doesn't kill the subsidy; it just means the legislature and governor need to be convinced of the merits of the proposal.
In an informal session before the meeting, Mayor Will Sessoms said the city should finish negotiating its "term sheet" with Comcast-Spectacor and then "use our horsepower" to persuade lawmakers to go along with the subsidy. He wants the term sheet completed before the legislature convenes in January.
City officials haven't confirmed that it's the Kings they're pursuing, but the team's interest in Virginia has been widely reported. A Bee story on the project was included in the city manager's packet of materials presented to the council for today's meeting.
The Maloofs, who own the team, have refused to confirm or deny that they're interested in moving.
Council members who voted yes said they didn't want to shut the deal down without learning more about the arena project, which surfaced in August. "It would be very wrong to close that door without finding out more information," said councilwoman Rosemary Wilson.
But councilman John Moss, who voted no, said a $150 million state subsidy would be better used on "roads and schools."
He also said, based on his discussions with state legislators, that securing a subsidy for the arena is "not impossible but the odds are not in our favor."
The mayor, responding to the criticism that the plan is too generous to private interests, said "we're going to try to get more private money" in the deal.
Under the tentative framework, the city would contribute $241 million to the project and Comcast-Spectacor would put in $35 million. As for the state's subsidy, $70 million would go to arena construction and $80 million for relocation expenses.