Privately funded proposal submitted for VB arena

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A Virginia Beach-based development group unveiled a new proposal for an 18,000-seat sports arena funded by private dollars Monday afternoon.

Representatives of United States Management and its development team from ESG Companies submitted the $200-million proposal to the City of Virginia Beach. It is one of two proposals competing for City Council’s vote.

“We would love to have a shovel in the ground by January,” said Andrea Kilmer, Chief Financial Officer for ESG Companies.

The ESG plan stands out from past proposals because of its focus on private funding.

“This arena will be one of a few in the nation that does not require public investment to finance its construction,” said Kilmer.

The proposed arena would sit on land along 19th street across from the convention center. From a bird’s eye view, the southern boundary would be the white veterans memorial, the northern boundary a brick building, and the encompassing parking lots in between.

The facility will be built with a future anchor tenant in mind, but right now the focus is filling it with headlining concerts, sports tournaments and ice shows. Architects say the state-of-the-art facility would feature big open doors on one end — allowing concert music to be heard from an outdoor plaza.

“Imagine top headline performers like Lady Gaga, U2,  ice shows,  national political conventions and other major events that happen in our city, bringing visitors to our hotels, our restaurants and our shops,” said Joe Gelardi of ESG Companies.

Along with ESG , the development group includes management company SMG, AECOM architects, Clark Nexsen Architects of Norfolk, as well as local builder SB Ballard and nationally renowned Mortenson Construction.

At Monday’s news conference, Kilmer told the media a Chinese bank will back more than 50 percent of the building cost through a loan, and the development group would invest the rest. However, Kilmer said ownership would be exclusively domestic.

“No Chinese ownership,” she said. “It is strictly a lender relationship that we will have, just like you have a mortgage on your home, we will have a mortgage on the arena.”

It’s a deal that sounds almost too good to be true, but only time will tell if it is.

“I wouldn’t be standing here if I wasn’t ready to start the arena,” Kilmer said Monday.

A city task force will now conduct a thorough review of the two proposals and brief City Council at some point in the future. Within the next 10 days, the city will post both proposals online, as required by law.

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