(KING5) -- The main rival to Seattle's bid to land an NBA franchise is no longer in the running, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Comcast-Spectator and the mayor of Virginia Beach.
Officials in the coastal Virginia city were lobbying for state backing to build a new sports arena that would likely be the new home for the Sacramento Kings franchise.
The joint statement said they still want to bring a major sports franchise to the heavily populated southeastern Virginia region. The full statement:
The city of Virginia Beach and Comcast-Spectacor are working diligently to reach an agreement to build an entertainment-and-sports arena at the Virginia Beach resort. Both parties remain committed to the concept of an arena in Virginia Beach and continue discussions with a potential anchor tenant.
That said, we have not reached a level of progress that will allow the city to go before the General Assembly to request the necessary funding. If the city is to secure support from the state, which is critical to this project, we must have a firm proposal for the legislature to consider. We must make more progress with our discussions.
We both continue to firmly believe that Hampton Roads is ready for a large sports-and-entertainment venue.
This is still the largest market in the nation without a major-league sports team.
The Virginia Beach economy is strong and attractive to major entertainment acts and pro sports leagues.
The Oceanfront is an ideal location for the project with its proximity to the highway system, hotel infrastructure, Convention Center and parking.
Therefore, it is in the best interests of the city and Comcast-Spectacor to continue their discussions about how to make this happen.
With Virginia Beach out of the bidding, Seattle's chances for landing the Kings improves. Investor Chris Hansen and his partners have secured approval -- and public financial support -- for a $490 million arena project in Seattle's existing stadium district. The Maloof family, owners of the Kings franchise, failed to secure a new arena deal in Sacramento last year, and it's an open question how long the family can maintain its ownership of the team.
Asked for comment on the Virginia Beach announcement, a Maloof family spokesman said: "As we have said for nearly a year, we have been contacted by several cities and parties interested in the Sacramento Kings organization. The announcement today from Virginia Beach does not change our long-held position that we will not comment on rumors or speculation about the franchise."
NBA Commissioner David Stern is reportedly keen to return professional basketball to the Pacific Northwest, and Hansen's arena project makes that move much more likely.
Reporting by KING 5's Chris Daniels.