Potential Virginia Beach arena and what it means.
Virginia Beach City Council voted 10-1 to approve a privately-funded stadium at the Oceanfront on Tuesday night. Plans like this have been brewing for a while, especially since the Sacramento Kings and Comcast attempted to bring a top-flight venue to the region. The logic behind it is simple (though incredibly flawed): a new arena will bring bigger acts, maybe a major league sports team, and perhaps some benefits to local business. Outside of the acts, this is yet to be seen.
First off, the venue’s private financing is the best part of the deal. Most venues around the country are publicly financed to the point of ridiculousness. St. Louis and the State of Missouri, for example, are on the hook for close to $400 million dollars worth of financing in a futile bid to try and keep the Rams. Virginia Beach skips that, with taxes coming from tourism and vice taxes to work on infrastructure. If anything, the arena deal may have spurred necessary infrastructure spending in the Oceanfront region.
Virginia Beach-and in a way, the area-has sort-of been clamoring for an arena of this quality for a while now. Right now, the most modern arena is ODU’s Ted Constant Convocation Center, which seats about 9,100 people. Beyond the Constant Center, the area has seen newer venues like Sadler Center for the Performing Arts in Town Center, and the Ferguson Center at CNU. Both of those are great additions to the region, the Virginia Beach Arena (I’m going to call this VBA now) hopes to do the same.
VBA needs to fill in all of those dates they’re likely going to have. One way to do this is to make a sports team a resident of the arena. By doing so, there’s a primary tenant, so the arena won’t essentially bleed money. According to various reports, the managers of the arena want to go after an NHL or NBA team. Given the ability to retrofit the arena, they’re in a good position either way.
As this is a blog about the local professional hockey team, we’ll talk about impact there. The Admirals are currently owned by the Edmonton Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG), and recently signed a three-to-six year lease. Funny enough, VBA is projected to open in the fall of 2018. If VBA were to land an NHL team, it would be a clean break.
Right now, the most likely NHL candidates would be relocated, not venues for expansion. Two teams immediately come to mind for relocation: the Florida Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes. Florida currently plays in the Miami suburbs, has the second-worst attendance by percentage, and their arena lease is on shaky ground. SMG, the management firm, likely had their phones ready to go as soon as the Yes vote was announced.
I don’t know if Florida comes to VBA. A team I could actually see moving to VBA, in one of the most ironic twists of all time? The Carolina Hurricanes. Carolina is currently averaging the lowest attendance in the league in terms of percentage and bodies in seats. Add to the fact that a major sale is about to happen, and the team might be moving. Now a decade removed from their Stanely Cup run, the Canes appear to be a team without much of an identity. While they are trending upwards under coach Bill Peters-they’re possession monsters-they still aren’t serious contenders in the Metro.
Moving the team might provide energy and inspiration, especially with Virginia Beach a mere four hours away. Then again, this might be a problem: Why move a team such a short distance? Stranger things have happened, to be sure. If the Hurricanes did move to VBA it would be kind of odd: they almost moved here as the Hampton Roads Rhinos in the mid-90s.
I am somewhat skeptical of an NHL team working in the area. Hampton Roads has failed time and time again to bring in a major league sports team, so perhaps I am committing to pattern recognition. Another concern is the incredibly low attendance for the Admirals this year. Obviously, the poor record, non-existent help from the ownership group, and general misunderstanding of the AHL sale are major contributors.
Given the increased discussion of ticket prices among the fanbase–what will happen if an NHL team comes to town? The lowest season ticket price for the Hurricanes is an 11-game flex package for $286, which is limited to certain games. I wonder how that would over in the area.
If an NHL team does come here, I think there are few ramifications. First, the ECHL Admirals 2.0 end up moving somewhere else. Some markets can support an ECHL team and NHL team in close proximity; Hampton Roads is likely not one of them. Second, the NHL team will draw a great deal of initial interest before fans get bored or start losing. Capitals and Penguins games will be big hits, but a Wednesday tilt against a mid-table Blue Jackets team? $5 Dollar beers ahoy! (Who am I kidding, this would never happen )
After a while, the fanbase may not support the team and refuse to go to the games. The cycle of NHL relocation happens again, prompting the same discussions seen everywhere else. The fanbase may also become incredibly active, rooting for the team and making it the must-see event in the region. Positive outlook, maybe.
In the meantime, the Admirals claimed a 6-1 victory in Glens Falls last night and gave the Adirondack Thunder their first home loss of the season.