JAMES CITY COUNTY — An update regarding the proposed Williamsburg Sports & Event Center by the Historic Triangle Recreational Facility Authority (HTRFA) was presented to the James City County (JCC) Board of Supervisors (BOS) at their monthly business meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
HTRFA is a governmental entity formed to evaluate, and if feasible, oversee the construction and management of recreational and tourism facilities.
The authority consists of the Chief Administrative Officers of all three localities (JCC, City of Williamsburg and York County) and their respective Assistants or Parks and Recreation directors. The authority is tasked with purchasing or leasing the property, procuring the construction and financing for the project, and managing the operations of the approved facilities.
JCC County Supervisor and HTRFA board member and Vice-Chair Scott Stevens explained the purpose of the presentation is to allow the JCC BOS an opportunity to ask questions and provide an update on the proposed Williamsburg Sports & Events Center.
“Our hope, as an authority, is we would be able to approve the financial agreements to this at your next meeting, or December time frame, to allow the project to move forward,” said Stevens.
According to Stevens, the completed steps include the set-up of the governmental entity known as HTRFA, a location site has been chosen that includes a 40-year lease contingent on the project’s approval, a design-build contractor has been selected and the authority is now evaluating facility operators.
The HTRFA made the recommendation to move forward with the sports facility as it believes the project is financially feasible, would have a positive economic impact on the region and provide additional recreational facilities to residents.
“I believe this sports facility will build on our region’s strong tourism economy and provide much-needed gym space for our residents.” Stevens continued, “If approved, it will be an attractive structure that we can be proud to showcase.”
To finalize the facility, all three localities will need to approve a Memorandum of Agreement to establish a financial partnership and commitment from the jurisdictions before a comprehensive agreement and guaranteed maximum price is finalized with MEB General Contractors.
The Williamsburg Sports & Events Center project plan was presented by Rick Hibbett Jr., MEB’s business development manager.
Hibbett provided “a sneak peek” of the venue through renderings of the proposed design.
The originally proposed 160,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility would be located across from the current Williamsburg Visitor Center and include basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts in addition to meeting space and food and beverage areas. The project has now added 40,000 square feet for the inclusion of a conversion turf system, a climbing rock wall and a “ninja gym.”
Regarding the overall site plan and future development, Hibbett stated, “One of the tasks we had was to make sure that the sports center was planned with the future in mind. We placed the sports center in a location that would allow for future expansion of sports or event facilities.”
In March 2021, HTRFTA was provided an economic impact analysis report by HVS Convention, a sports and entertainment facilities consultant, that stated the sports facility could provide 245-plus annual jobs and have a net annual economic output of $21 million.
The current amount needed to reach the comprehensive agreement is just short of $80 million. This amount would be split between JCC, the City of Williamsburg and York County using the following criteria:
Noting the cost has risen from the original proposal, Stevens noted, “The cost for the construction of the facility has gone up for a variety of reasons. A big part of that is because we added in additional space and inflation factors that are occurring.”
John McGlennon, JCC Board member, asked if a comparison study had been conducted to determine if a regional center is the best way forward versus JCC building its own smaller facility.
“If we build a stand-alone, which if this doesn’t go forward would be our recommendation, it will cost us more to do that versus participating in this,” Stevens answered.
JCC BOS Vice Chair, Ruth Larson had favorable remarks for the proposal, “As someone who has been very closely aligned with tourism and the tourism council, I know that something like this is much needed here.”
HTFRA will present to the York County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Dec. 5 and to the City of Williamsburg on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
Should the sports complex receive approval, 2026 is the anticipated competition date for the project.
The JCC BOS meeting can be viewed in its entirety here.