By Sam Stanton
Political leaders in Virginia Beach either declined comment or said they had learned of the possibilty of the Kings moving from reporters and from a press conference the mayor called today to announce that Comcast would present a proposal next week to bring a professional team to town, but that no specific team was named.
Terry Kelley, vice president of the Meridian Group, which reportedly will handle public relations for the plan, said in a phone message that he could only confirm there will be a press conference next Tuesday after the Virginia Beach council meets.
"As far as the Sacramento Kings, I'm not privy to any of those discussions," Kelley added.
Comcast Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman issued a statement saying that his firm and Live Nation "are always looking for new opportunities to expand our business in the area," but declined to provide specifics about what is planned for next week.
"We will refrain from making any comments until we are in Virginia Beach on Tuesday," he wrote. "At our presentation on Tuesday we will elaborate our collective plans for a new arena. Despite preliminary reports, no specific professional sports team from any league has been identified as the potential tenant for this building."
The city's vice mayor, Louis R. Jones, said the council had been contacted about a proposal to move a team there but added that he knew few specifics.
"You know more than I do," Jones said. "We've been contacted by a company called Comcast and they want to talk to us about a professional sports team, but I honestly don't know which team it is."
"All we know is they want to come and make a presentation," Jones added. "I don't know that they're coming to talk to us about the Kings."
Another councilman, John D. Moss, said he heard about the report from another councilmember and had been told the plan was hatched by the mayor, the vice mayor and the city manager.
"To the best of my knowledge, the council as a whole has no knowledge of the specifics, and since we don't have a strong mayor I guess they are acting without portofolio," Moss said. "I've expressed my unhappiness about my ignorance, but I'm waiting to be educated."
Moss said he would welcome any new business to Virginia Beach, but only if no public money was involved.
"The devil's in the details," he said. "I don't believe in public subsidies for anything. Anyone who wants to come and spend their own money without public subsidies, whether it's a 7-11 or an NBA team, I don't have a problem with."
Moss added that the metropolitan area has about 1,7 million residents, but said it is similar to Sacramento in that it lacks a large corporate base. The area has two Fortune 500 companies, officials said, and the largest employer is the Department of Defense and local Navy installations.
Moss indicated the Virginia Beach city government also has similarities to Sacramento's.
"We don't have a strong mayor, we have a ceremonial mayor," he said. "We have a city manager who can declare an emergency, he can declare a meeting, but he can't unilaterally declare "we're bringing a team to town.'"
The Inside Business report on the move indicates that the local hotel-motel association would support a $1 room tax hike to help fund the move, something it attributed to sources.
But the executive director of the Virginia Beach Hotel-Motel Association denied that.
"That is inaccurate information," Nancy Marscheider said. "This has not been brought to our board, to our president. This has not been discussed with our city Council person. This is the first that I've heard of it.
"Where in the hell did they get that from? I didn't get a call. It hasn't even been put on my radar."