Saturday, July 2, 2022

Williamsburg as a sports tourism destination? It may be reality soon with this regional sports complex

Mayor Doug Pons announced the visitor center campus as a location for the future Regional Sports Complex during last night’s State of the City address. (WYDaily/Courtesy of viriginia.org)

Historical tourism may not be the only thing Williamsburg is known for in the near future.

Last Thursday, during the City of Williamsburg’s first ever virtual State of the City Address, Mayor Doug Pons announced the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center is a potential location for a future regional sports complex.

RELATED STORY: Did you get a chance to watch Williamsburg’s State of the City Address? Here are the highlights

And according to Pons, this plan to introduce the sports tourism industry to Williamsburg has been an ongoing plan since 2014.

But why at the Visitors Center?

“The Visitor Center campus has the space, the infrastructure, and the proximity to the interstate that we think will help the sports tourism industry further expand in the area,” Pons said during the address.

The Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association applied for a study on the finance and construction of the complex after the city established a tourism development grant program made by using a portion of funding from Historic Triangle sales tax.

City Council members also included this as an initiative to pursue over two years ago, Pons said.

What this new project means for the future of the visitors center has yet to be determined, but during the address, hints were dropped about a change in role for the Visitors Center..

According to Cliff Fleet, CEO and president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Visitors Center opened up in 1957 to accommodate families visiting the area and going to Colonial Williamsburg, according to Fleet.

““But overtime our guest expectations have changed considerably. How they plan and take trips has changed dramatically,” he said. “Advances in technology are allowing us to reimagine the guest arrival experience in exciting new ways.”

But much work has yet to be done in the project. According to City of Williamsburg spokeswoman, a construction date for the sports complex has yet to be determined.

Currently, the City is working with a sports tourism consultant who reviewed and updated the existing sports tourism market study. The City and an economist will then review and finalize the market study. An economic impact statement is expected next month, according to Williamsburg City Manager Andrew Trivette.

“When both reports conclude, they will be presented to the regional committee to consider further action. Lease negotiations with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation are ongoing; the two reports will inform those negotiations,” Trivette said in a statement via email.

This regional committee is the Historic Triangle Sports Center Planning Committee, a group of chief administrators, economic development directors, and parks and recreation representatives from the city of Williamsburg, James City County and York County, including Ron Kirkland, executive director of the Williamsburg Hotel & Motel Association, according to Trifone.

“The complex is intended to be a tourism driver. It will attract sports tournaments and events that bring with them legions of players, parents, coaches, and spectators. These people will eat, sleep, and be entertained in the greater Williamsburg area to the benefit of all our existing major attractions. Building and operating the sports center will bolster our tourism economy,” said Trivette.

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