Beach Arena Dreams

A Norfolk, Va., businessman isn’t giving up on his dream of building a 22,000-capacity oceanfront arena in Virginia Beach despite the rejection of his proposal from the city council, mayor and city manager April 26.

The $350 million, privately funded arena was floated by Drakkar America, a development company founded by company president David Tollaksen. But Virginia Beach’s city council quashed the notion that while the arena might be privately financed, the city could still be on the hook for guaranteeing any debt, according to WAVY-TV.

“The way it is being presented to me, it would not be a very good decision for our city,” Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms told the television station. He added that the proposal as presented would have required Virginia Beach to guarantee all the debt on not only venue construction, but and sports franchise tenant, according to the station.

But Tollaksen isn’t giving up on the plan, telling the Daily Press he will continue to pursue other options.

“Virginia Beach wasn’t the only place we were looking to put this arena,” he told the paper. Tollaksen is also reportedly backing the concept of a mixed-use district near the proposed arena site, and a $150 million horse racing track in the Hampton Roads area.

“In a future conversation with the city, which I plan on having … I’ll say, ‘Look, are you interested in this thing, in the economic impact? If you aren’t interested in this finance plan, are you even interested in us coming back and putting this thing together?’” Tollaksen told the paper.

Drakkar is reportedly working with architect Populous (formerly HOK Sport) on plans for both an arena and a racetrack.

Tollaksen told the Daily Press there are elements of the rejection letter that are confusing. He also reportedly thinks city officials don’t understand the offer is for $350 million available for financing and two years of operating expenses in reserve – with no up-front monies required from Virginia Beach.

The offer did include a provision for a special tax district, in the case of “catastrophic” circumstances after the arena opens, which would funnel money to the project and be repaid upon recovery.

Tollaksen pointed to NBA or NHL teams looking for new homes as a source of revenue that would keep the city off the hook for any guarantees, according to the paper.

“It’s all about the citizens and all about the region, and let’s find the best place to put this thing,” Tollaksen told the Daily Press. “We’re not giving up the project if Virginia Beach doesn’t like it. If that’s the path they want to go down, that doesn’t nix the project.

“We’re moving forward. Maybe it doesn’t go in Virginia Beach. Maybe it goes in another city,” Tollaksen said.