- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 23, 2012

NORFOLK, Va. — An economic study prepared for the Virginia Beach Development Authority suggests an unnamed NBA team could move to Virginia as soon as next year by playing its first two seasons in various arenas around the state while a permanent home is built near the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

Virginia Beach is considering whether to build an 18,500 seat arena in hopes of luring an NBA or NHL team to the state’s largest city. If built, city officials say a team could begin playing in it in the fall of 2015.

The study says Philadelphia-based sports and entertainment company Comcast-Spectacor has said an NBA franchise is considering the possibility of relocating to Virginia Beach, but it doesn’t specify which one.

“We have had several discussions regarding relocation with a few teams and won’t disclose any of those discussions at this time,” Comcast-Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman wrote in an email to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Under a proposal unveiled in August, Comcast-Spectacor would manage the arena and be responsible for finding its primary tenant, an NBA or NHL team. The company is the owner of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers and the Wells Fargo Center, where the Flyers and the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers play.

At the time, city officials said they needed to act quickly on whether to develop the proposed $350 million arena across the street from the city’s convention center because of competitive concerns with other cities. The timeline referred to in the study says that to begin play in 2015 construction on an arena would be expected to begin in May.

Since then, Seattle has agreed to a funding plan to build a $490 million arena in an effort to bring an NBA team back to town there. So far, there has been no arena funding plan for Virginia Beach that’s been made public.

Richmond-based Chmura Economics and Analytics presented the findings of its study at a city council meeting Tuesday.

The study does not identify which arenas or cities those games would be played in, but it says the annual direct economic impact to the state during those two years would be about $180 million. However, the study also includes a footnote saying that playing in smaller arenas would result in a smaller economic impact. One of the reasons a new arena would need to be built is because there is no venue in the combined Virginia Beach and Richmond markets with more than 12,000 seats.

In estimating the $502 million statewide economic impact an NBA team relocating to Virginia Beach would have, the study projects average attendance of 16,000 people per game.

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