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Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms announces deal to build arena in city

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The city and developer have finalized a deal to build an arena near the Oceanfront, Mayor Will Sessoms announced during his State of the City speech on Wednesday afternoon.

The agreement with United States Management follows months of uncertainty about the project, but now Andrea Kilmer, the CEO of USM, says they’ve worked with the city to strike a deal. “This has been a long three and a half years,” Kilmer said. “Hopefully, now we can get the project out of the political limelight.”

The deal is close enough to a December 2015 agreement and will not require another city council vote, according to the developer. The latest deal requires $70 million in equity and a $150 million loan from USM. The arena will be privately financed, but the city will lease city land and contribute $67 million in infrastructure improvements.

JPMorgan Chase Bank is the lead lender, Kilmer said. “It’s certainly a more traditional loan type deal for us than an international type financing deal,” she said, referencing the original plan to use Chinese lending. Kilmer and her team asked to make changes to that deal, but not enough city council members approved the changes last fall, leaving the plan in jeopardy.

Now, the mayor hopes big events will come to the city. “Picture March Madness two years from now,” Sessoms said. “Wouldn’t it be amazing to have this happening right across the street at our new Virginia Beach Arena?” The head of construction, Stephen Ballard, said that might be a bit aggressive. “The mayor is a bit of an optimist,” he said.

The developer hopes to break ground this summer and to open the arena in 2019

His address also highlighted key business development initiatives, provided strategic municipal progress updates and provided a glimpse into Virginia Beach’s future.

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