Virginia Beach's mayor said today he wants a lease signed with a professional sports team - widely reported to be the Sacramento Kings - by the beginning of next week, or he will pull the plug on the city's arena efforts for this year.
Mayor Will Sessoms, the lead proponent of building a major league arena, told the Bee he has informed the city's private partner, arena operator Comcast-Spectacor, he wants them to come to an agreement with the team by Monday.
"We have a timeline that is right upon us to go to state to ask for a substantial amount of money," Sessoms said. "We are not going to go up there and make a fool of ourselves. I need to know something by Monday.
"I don't want to be wasting people's time or my time if we are not going to bring some conclusion to these negotiations quickly."
Virginia Beach officials say two state General Assembly representatives are prepared to request $150 million in state funds to help to build the arena when the Assembly reconvenes next Wednesday - but only if Comcast reaches a deal with the team.
A Comcast representative declined comment today. Representatives of the Kings did not return calls from the Bee. The Kings attempted to move to Anaheim in 2011, but were persuaded by NBA officials at the last minute to participate in a new effort to build a downtown arena in Sacramento. The Maloofs, who own the Kings, backed out of that deal last spring, and have since declined to discuss the team's longterm future.
Virginia Beach Mayor Sessoms said his city's effort faces two key deadlines: State funding requests need to be made in the next two weeks, and the National Basketball Association generally requires teams to submit relocation requests by March 1.
Sessoms said on Thursday he believes Virginia Beach and the team would get a favorable hearing from the NBA Board of Governors, if the team makes a relocation request next month.
"Peter Luukko (president of Comcast) used to be on the board of the NBA (as former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers), and he's given me a great comfort level that he can work with the commissioner," Sessoms said.