Building an Entertainment District

How do we get there?
​​​aerial view of convention center and surrounding area​​​On Feb. 7, Deputy City Manager Ron Williams briefed the City Council on plans for the Virginia Beach Entertainment District — specifically the area between the Convention Center and the old Dome site which is now a City-owned empty lot.

Studies make cases for a mixed-use entertainment venue at the Dome Site, a sports center across from the convention center and a convention center hotel to leverage the City’s assets within the district and maximize tax revenue from tourism. These projects would help Virginia Beach become a year-round destination. ​

Why do we care about being a year-round destination?
Tourism is one of the city’s major economic drivers. Among all Hampton Roads cities, Virginia Beach has the lowest real estate and personal property tax rates, yet the best public amenities and services. Most of the tourism revenue comes during the late spring through early fall; building more of a year-round destination would bring more activity to the city during the shoulder months (and hence, more business). This brings in more tax revenue from outside our city and provides money to support city services including public safety, education and roads.

Dome Site

Based on the recommendations of the 2007 Hunter Interest Study, the city is targeting a mixed-use development with an emphasis on entertainment. The Virginia Beach Development Authority issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) on Feb. 8 and responses are due April 10. The RFQ seeks responses from qualified developer/operators with experience in multi-block mixed use development, entertainment venues, unique or new to market retail and restaurants, multi-family residential and year-round programming to attract both locals and tourists. ​

​Sports Center

Sports-related tourism isn’t nearly as affected by economic recession as other types of travel — in fact, Virginia Beach’s growth in sporting events over the past three years alone has continued to increase; we hosted about 30 events a year from 2003 to 2012, 94 events in 2017.​

The Convention and Visitors Bureau hired a firm to review the city’s sports marketing initiatives and recommendations for leveraging this booming market. The consultants suggest the city build and operate a 130,000-150,000 square foot recreational facility that would feature 12 regulation basketball courts that can convert to 14 volleyball courts, team rooms, concessions and administrative offices. With this configuration, the city should be able to generate 36 additional events per year with an economic impact of nearly $10 million. ​

Convention Center Headquarters Hotel

Building a sports center allows the city to retain and expand upon the sports market that currently utilizes the convention center and frees up the convention space to tap into the convention market.   

While Virginia Beach, because of our location, hosts small meetings and conferences, the lack of a convention center hotel keeps us from attracting the larger events that would grow shoulder season tourism.  Several studies dating back to 1994 highlight the needs for a brand name, full-service hotel that is connected to the convention center, contains at least 400 guest rooms and suites with at least 30,000 square feet of additional function space.
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