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Va. Beach lawmaker wants to revive sports authority
Va. Beach lawmaker wants to revive sports authority

A state lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation to revive a regional sports authority that could be part of future efforts to build an arena.

Del. Ron Villanueva, a Virginia Beach Republican, said it's important to have an authority with the power to issue bonds so the region can act quickly if another opportunity to build an arena comes along.

Earlier this month, an attempt to build an arena in Virginia Beach with a National Basketball Association franchise as the anchor tenant was suspended when the company that would have operated the arena couldn't agree to terms with the team that sources identified as the Sacramento Kings.

"Every time we've gone through this drill, we haven't been as ready as we need to be," Villanueva said. "Hopefully, this will make us ready when the future comes calling again. This would be a good opportunity for regional cooperation."

Villanueva said the bill is being drafted. Questions such as how many members the authority would have and how they would be appointed have yet to be worked out.

The deadline to file it is Friday.

The bill also would allow the authority to capture state income and sales taxes generated at a facility to pay off debt on an arena's construction.

A companion bill Villanueva is drafting would grant the same authority to retain state taxes to the city of Virginia Beach.

Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim and Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms said they support the effort to create a regional authority.

"I don't know what the language is, but if the goal is to have the region sitting together to help figure out a financing mechanism for a regional sport facility, then I think it would be very helpful," Fraim said.

"It's a tool if an opportunity comes for any city in Hampton Roads," Sessoms said.

The Hampton Roads Sports Facility Authority, created in 1996, had 15 members appointed by the governor. The authority never had reason to act after a 1997 deal to build a Norfolk arena for a National Hockey League team didn't work out. The authority would have issued bonds for the arena and used state tax revenues to help pay off the debt. The legislation authorizing it expired.

Virginia Beach Councilman Glenn Davis, who is pushing for the bills, said the legislation wouldn't commit local cities to doing anything.

"All this is for an opportunity we may want to look at in the future," he said.

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