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Kings eye Va. Beach?

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Sports,NBA,Craig Stouffer

Team denies report of a possible move

There's no shame in Virginia Beach promoting itself as a viable candidate for a major professional sports team. There's also no guarantee that it will work even though the Sacramento Kings could be on the move if they don't get a new permanent home in Northern California.

Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms and Vice Mayor Louis R. Jones met privately with Comcast Spectacor, concert promoter Live Nation and stadium operator Global Spectrum last week, according to a report by Inside Business (formerly the Hampton Roads Business Journal). Next they will hear from the public on a proposal to build a pro-sized arena that could host lots of things, including an NBA franchise. According to reports, there are supposed guarantees that a team will follow if it's approved. The team has not been named.

With a population of more than 1.6 million, Hampton Roads has the size to accommodate the NBA. Virginia Beach (442,000) alone has more than double the inhabitants of Salt Lake City (190,000), home of the Utah Jazz. There are also no other major pro sports teams, but there are natural rivals in the Wizards and Charlotte Bobcats.

The ABA's Virginia Squires last played at the Norfolk Scope in 1976, and Norfolk was a possibility for the Hornets before they relocated from Charlotte to New Orleans in 2002.

With the Department of Defense as the region's largest employer, a new team in the area could trade in Squires for a name with a military or naval theme.

"[Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell] supports efforts to bring a professional sports franchise to Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads area," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said. "Landing a franchise would benefit the local and state economy and spur job creation in the region. The governor looks forward to working with local officials and all involved in this effort."

Virginia Beach Councilman Bill DeSteph was more cautious.

"If it's private industry and private investment I would support it," DeSteph said. "I don't think we have the demographics to support 82 games plus preseason and playoffs. But if the private industry thinks we do, I support them. But it's not something we should put public dollars into."

The Maloof family, which owns the Sacramento Kings, could be a bigger concern than Virginia Beach's ambitions. While they are currently pushing tickets for the upcoming season, the threat remains that they will pull stakes and leave Sacramento, where an arena deal failed earlier this year.

Joe Maloof told Sacramento's CBS13, "We haven't talked to Virginia Beach," and an NBA spokesman said the league hasn't had an application for relocation.

"The Kings organization over the last several years has been approached by numerous parties and cities interested in buying and relocating the franchise," the Kings said in a statement. "The franchise is not going to discuss which cities have approached the organization and are not going to comment on every rumor."

Examiner Staff Writer Steve Contorno contributed to this article.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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