Council’s rejection means huge setback for Oceanfront arena plan

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — An arena at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront just suffered a huge setback.

Virginia Beach City Council came up one vote short of a super majority Tuesday to approve the go ahead for the arena, which has been discussed for three years.

Virginia Beach council rejects Oceanfront arena deal

Two supporting votes from Councilmen Louis Jones and John Moss defected, joining Councilwoman Barbara Henley, who has always opposed the 18,500 seat arena proposed on 19th Street.

After the fallout — which was not unanticipated — what is the next move for Mayor Will Sessoms, who is a strong supporter of the project?

Mayor Sessoms efforts began Wednesday morning on the phone.

“Obviously, I am disappointed. I can’t say I was taken by total surprise,” Sessoms told 10 On Your Side.

He called Councilman Louis Jones.

“We had a casual conversation with him this  morning. I have not talked with Mr. Moss. If I could get more equity [from the developers], then we could perhaps revise this project,” Sessoms told us.

Sessoms, who is a banker by trade, believes lack of developer equity in the deal — which is now at $20 million — is not enough, but Sessoms also points out the city has zero exposure.

“The only dollar that a citizen would pay for this arena is if they bought a ticket, bought food, or bought a beverage, or stayed in a hotel at the Oceanfront,” Sessoms said.

Councilmen Jones and John Moss refused to return phone calls. After WAVY ran our report, Moss sent 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox a text message, which said: “I am not making any additional comments at this time. The motion to amend the agreement failed. The approved agreement is in place through November 8, 2016.”

A super majority of nine votes was needed because city land is to be leased, and that requirement is in the charter of the city. With the Jones and Moss defections, the number was only eight, including Henley.

“Obvious, I am very disappointed,” said Developer Andrea Kilmer, President and CEO of USM. “This project could spur redevelopment and it is a travesty for the people.”

That is Sessoms point, too. The arena is perfect for wintertime events. There could be a new sports team, but Sessoms was quick to point out: “We are nowhere on that. We are nowhere.”

Only a few spoke against the arena on Tuesday night, but one said, “Now we’re back for another project, and then there’s going to be a dome site. It’s just an endless laundry list that we dump in the Oceanfront to try and hide the reality that it’s cold here in the wintertime.”

Kilmer says maybe she needs to take her arena project to another city, like Chesapeake or Norfolk.

“It is certainly something we deserve. Where we do that, it may yet to be determined.”

Sessoms appears stuck in the middle, but will reach out to Kilmer who is out of town to see if the deal can be adjusted.

“There was a very positive feeling of this. There is going to be great excitement generated, and I want to get that excitement back,” Sessoms added.