The governor of Virginia uttered some common-sense words the other day that could pass for astonishing insight in Sacramento: Economic development proposals must make sound financial sense before you toss millions of dollars into them.
Gov. Bob McDonnell drove a stake into the heart of Virginia Beach’s plan to build a sports arena that might house the Kings when he refused to dump $150 million into the state budget for the budding plan.
Along with $150 million in state money, the plans calls for $241 million in city money and $35 million from Comcast-Spectacor to build the arena and relocate a pro sports team team. Comcast would lease and operate the 18,500-seat arena for 25 years.
“Any state involvement in economic development proposals must make clear and sound financial sense for the Commonwealth’s taxpayers and be economically justifiable,” McDonnell said in a statement.
The Republican governor, who has made job creation a priority, wasn’t buying several pie-in-the sky studies that touted jobs and economic growth from building an arena. One done by Texas-based Conventions, Sports & Leisure International showed that an arena would generate annual revenue for southeastern Virginia of $152 million, including $92 million in Virginia Beach, and would create 1,900 jobs and $8.9 million in city tax revenue, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
The breezy optimism should sound familiar to Sacramentans, who heard Mayor Kevin Johnson and supporters advance similar nonsense in their failed effort to make a deal for a downtown arena. Apparently, they didn’t understand that the Maloof family, the majority owners of the Kings, didn’t want to put up any money in return for a new arena. The Virginia Beach plan makes no mention of upfront money from any sports team.
The dealings in Virginia should serve as yet another warning to Sacramentans, where diehard supporters are trying to revive the downtown arena ripoff, that pro sports teams are committed to squeezing as much money as they can from the public while putting up as little of their own money as possible.
It’s encouraging to see that at least one prominent politician refused to be taken for a ride by slick promoters. One can only hope the Mayor Johnson, who likes to traipse around the country, will stop in Virginia for a chat with the governor.