HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - An indoor sports complex and convention center could soon replace Virginia Center Commons.
The Henrico County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday evening to enter negotiations with The Rebkee Company for design, construction and operation of the proposed indoor sports facility and convocation center.
“What we’re seeing is that by not having a facility of this type we’re leaving opportunities on the table,” said Neil Luther, Director of Henrico County Recreation & Parks. "We know by virtue of our relationships on the outside market, that very easily the groups that produce these indoor tournaments would love the opportunity to come here because of all the factors that make Henrico a great place to visit.”
Sports tourism is a major economic driver for the county. In 2018, $54 million was pumped into the economy thanks to more than 170 tournaments held at county parks and sports complexes. More than 180 tournaments were expected in 2019.
However, officials believe the county’s lack of an indoor facility could be costing it $33 million in unattainable revenue.
“We could easily put 30-35 weekends a year into this new facility,” Luther said. "It’s a tremendous uptick in economic generation that the county would be looking at.”
On July 30, 2018, the county requested proposals under The Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 (PPEA) for project plans. Six conceptual proposals were received followed by two detailed proposals. However, neither detailed proposer had a property interest to construct and operate the proposed complex at the county’s initially preferred location out near the Richmond Raceway.
In August 2019, after a tour of an indoor sports facility in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the Board of Supervisors requested the County to find new detailed proposals which would find a location where the developer has property interest.
“From the outset, location has been the key for this,” Luther said. “This facility has got to be in the right location to work and we feel very strongly that this location couldn’t be better... There is a lot of growth in that corridor, there’s a lot of rooftops and homes that are coming. Again, it’s just a convergence of tremendous opportunity to take 70 some acres of under-performing retail mall and turn it into an economic generator.”
From there, the group of overseeing the review of this project recommended the County to proceed with negotiations with The Rebkee Company.
“The proposal submitted the second time around by Rebkee to redevelop the sports arena on top of the Virginia Center Commons location is far and away the best proposal when it comes to hitting all of the marks we wanted to accomplish with this project,” Luther added.
Negotiations will determine whether part of the mall will be torn down or re-purposed, however, the concept of what would be built there remains the same.
“The prototype that we designed it around was intending to provide indoor courts,” Luther said. “Those courts can support any sports activity, primarily basketball, but certainly volleyball to any of the other court sports you can imagine – wrestling, gymnastics, cheer and dance… it also includes redeveloping the rest of the mall and packaging in a convention center and hotel as part of the package."
At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors regular meeting, they will vote on whether the County should move forward with negotiations as well as a budget amendment for the project.
“The budget amendment is authorizing a $50 million expenditure, so that caps the budget,” Luther said. “Everything that goes into the facility, the land, the building, all of that is capped at that budget amount.”
The Board of Supervisors would still have to approve contracts, designs and costs before this project moves forward.
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