Virginia Beach, Va. - The Virginia Beach City Council has reached an agreement with United State Management, LLC to build an arena near the Oceanfront. City leaders unveiled the plan Tuesday afternoon.
The developer hopes to open the "state-of-the-art" arena in 2018. It will have a normal capacity of 16,500 and an expanded capacity of 18,000, according to the presentation from Deputy City Manager Douglas Smith. That will make it the largest arena of its size between Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, N.C., according to the developer. It will also be more appealing to major touring acts.
The project will require more than $200 million in private funds with financing from a Chinese bank. The developer has not publicly named the investor yet.
"We're from Virginia Beach. We want to do this for our community," said Andrea Kilmer, the CEO of ESG Companies, the owner of USM ."We're pretty excited about bringing this to our hometown."
The city will contribute by helping with the infrastructure, including improving roads and necessary changes to utility lines at an estimated cost of $76.5 million. The city will pay for that with money from the city's Tourism Investment Program fund, which is made up of taxes from tourism related industry.
Councilman John Moss said the deal won't cost Virginia Beach residents. "Unless you spend the night in a hotel of your own choice, or unless you go to the arena yourself, you're not being asked to pay for the public infrastructure and you're not being asked to pay for the arena ," said Moss. "How many deals have we seen like that in Virginia Beach? Not one lately."
"This to me is a game changer for our city," said Mayor Will Sessoms, following a meeting on Monday when a tentative deal was reached. "I'm excited."
Not everyone was as impressed. During the meeting Tuesday, Councilwoman Barbara Henley said she had several concerns about the project, including parking and said she had questions about the terms of the deal with the lender. "Someone has to make me very comfortable with this in order for me to support this," she said. City council will need nine votes in order for the arena to pass.
Early on there were talks about bringing a professional sports team to the area. That doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon, but Sessoms still has big hopes for the arena.
"I think we're going to have great concerts," he said. "One of my goals is to have the ACC Basketball Tournament in Virginia Beach."
Residents who live near the Oceanfront are split on the proposed arena.
"I've got mixed feeling about it, I understand what the city is trying to do but I question is it going to draw the clientele or teams that they say they were," said Bill Bert, a longtime Virginia Beach resident.
Others are ready to start buying tickets.
"I think its absolutely a fantastic idea its about time that we had an arena like that in Hampton roads," said Tony Fegin. "Since I live in Virginia beach then we can potentially see the ACC tournament here I think that would be great for Virginia Beach."
There will be a presentation of the project to the public on Nov. 19 at the convention center. There will also be a public hearing on Dec.1. The final vote is scheduled for Dec. 8.