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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Williamsburg Sports and Events Center Gets the Green Light

Rendering of Proposed Williamsburg Sports & Event Center. (photo from JCC BOS Presentation)

YORK COUNTY — York County, the final locality needed to greenlight the Williamsburg Sports and Event Center complex, split its deciding vote 3-2 in favor of moving forward with the Historic Triangle Recreational Facility Authority’s (HTRFA) proposal.

HTRFA is a governmental entity formed to evaluate, and if feasible, oversee the construction and management of recreational and tourism facilities.

The York County Board of Supervisors had differing opinions about the project, many similar to those discussed at the James City County’s heated meeting earlier this month.

Brian Fuller, Assistant York County Administrator, gave a brief overview of the project that addressed the resolutions for approval.

While the space is expected to run at a deficit, Fuller states the county’s tourism revenue can cover all the costs.

“The HTRFA has recommended moving forward with the sports facility and believes it is financially feasible and will have a positive economic impact on all three localities,” Fuller stated. “James City County Board of Supervisors has approved this. The City of Williamsburg has approved this. We are the last organization that needs to approve this to allow the project to move forward.”

Board member Walter Zaremba felt that the citizens of York County had not been given enough information and nor the opportunity to educate themselves about the scope of the proposed facility.

“Are we considering tonight’s meeting the public hearing?” asked Zaremba, “So that the citizens of York County can make a determination on whether or not they want the county to be part of it or not? I don’t think this is much of a public hearing, quite frankly.”

Fuller replied by noting the HTRFA has been working publicly on the project for close to two years and the citizens have had many chances to express concerns, ask questions and gain knowledge on the scope of the proposal.

Once the floor opened for public comment, only three citizens spoke regarding the project. Two were strongly against it, while the other felt the project should move forward.

“It’s [the tourism business] not an easy business. We need to generate a new traffic driver,” stated Neal Chalkley, President of the Hotel & Motel Association in Williamsburg. “All we are asking here is to attract people from all over the country to participate in a world-class center in our backyard that our children can have a part of. I ask that we stop thinking about what we should be doing and we start doing what we can do and that is pass this resolution.”

Zaremba and Stephen Roane, who had also expressed concerns regarding the shared facility, voted against the proposal.

“I am disappointed and saddened by something this expensive for the county, for the next 30 years, that doesn’t have a real public hearing where the word got out and our citizens had an opportunity to come in here and say we support it or we object to it. I don’t think this evening, because it is an agenda item of about ten other agenda items, should be considered the kind of public hearing that I think we should have,” said Zaremba. “I hope going forward in the new year that public hearings mean something that’s separate, as a stand-alone, than just a board agenda item.”

Chairman Thomas Sheppard, Shelia Noll and Chad Green voted in favor of the project.

The proposed 200,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility will be located across from the current Williamsburg Visitor Center and include basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts, a climbing rock wall, a “ninja gym” and conversion turf system. The complex will also incorporate meeting space and food and beverage areas.

Expansion of the project to include a live entertainment venue is already under consideration.

The public meeting can be viewed here.

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