VIRGINIA BEACH — In an effort to address tourism lulls before and after summer at the Oceanfront, the city is taking steps to shape a corridor that could increase activity during the shoulder season.
Deputy City Manager Ron Williams gave city council an update Tuesday on the Central Beach Entertainment District, which focused on shifting funds in the upcoming budget for a parking garage and a proposed field house.
After a Victus sports market study estimated an increase in Beach visits for competitions that peaks in the winter, a proposed $40 million field house in the works.
Williams said staff saw a demand for it during a volleyball competition at the Convention Center over the weekend.
“This was a first-time tournament we had in Virginia Beach called the Virginia Beach Classic,” Brad Van Dommelen, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said. “This was one of two weekends that the NCAA allowed college coaches to view and scout high school talent.”
Van Dommelen said there were 134 teams and drew about 4,000 people.
“There’s a lot more demand than can be supplied right now for these types of events,” Van Dommelen said. “It’s just the type of event that we should see more of in Virginia Beach with the right facilties.”
Williams said city staff is shooting north of a 175,000 square-foot facility and recommends it go west of the Convention Center, which currently exists as a 695-space parking lot.
According to Williams’ presentation, the city could begin advertising proposal requests to developers this summer.
The convention center has 2,211 parking spaces, and Williams said the arena will bring 3,028 more spaces to the area, but the city will need to plan for more spaces if it decides to place a field house in the vicinity as well.
“The field house constructed west of the Convention Center eliminates approximately 550 spaces, and the treasurer’s lot at the Dome site that we have as part of the off-site arena construction is 328 spaces,” Williams said.
Williams said this additional demand calls for an adjustment.
He recommends amending city code to allow for event parking on privately-owned lots after business hours. Williams also recommends building a 2,435-space parking garage at the Convention Center and arena site.
Williams recommends reducing the field house budget from $40 million to $33.5 million, and increasing the arena budget for onsite improvements to $36.3 million for the parking garage. The city’s tourism investment program would fund the projects, which largely come from restaurant and hotel taxes.
United States Management is scheduled to close its loan commitment this June to build an arena — the same month shovels are slated to hit the ground to build it, according to Williams’ presentation.
Williams said staff have met with the development team every week for the last six weeks for the preliminary site plan review.
“It’s a unique scenario because some of the infastructure for the site plan, obviously, we’re investing in,” Williams said. “It’s [a] part regulator hat that we wear and part bill payer to ensure we remain in the scope for what we agreed to.”
Planning for the arena continues to evolve, specifically the plaza area the surrounds the structure.
“It’s conceived that this will either be concrete or pavers that will make up that area so it’s flexible and multi-use for both parking for some events, or off-arena event days,” Williams said. “It really makes for a great space for pre-arena events, but also how it connects and compliments the Convention Center, creating more of a complex campus feel.”
The last time city council got an update on the dome site was in February.
Since then, city staff put out a request for qualified developers to come up with an idea to become a development-operator partner for 10 acres of Oceanfront land, also known as the dome site.
“I emphasize ‘operator’ here, because it’s one thing to build a facility, it’s another thing to operate it long term and make sure it’s successful, financially sustainable, has the right tenant mix and can be managed properly.”
The city received responses from four teams and Williams said dome site review committee will meet throughout May to narrow down a selection.
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