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 have led city officials to conclude that a mixed-use entertainment venue at the Dome Site, a sports and entertainment arena across from the convention center, an indoor sports field house, and a convention center hotel would best leverage the city’s assets within the district and maximize tax revenue from tourism. It would also fulfill the desires of residents and visitors alike for additional entertainment options and help bring life to the resort area during the off season.​

Why do we care so much about being a year-round destination?
Tourism is one of the city’s major economic drivers — tourism activity generated $1.4 billion in expenditures and $55 million in local taxes in 2015. 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 revenue comes during the peak summer season, and building more of a year-round destination would bring more activity to the city during the colder 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.

The 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. ​

The Arena

On Jan. 3, the City Council, voted to provide the developer, United States Management (USM), a 60-day extension to secure suitable financing for the proposed arena. This is in addition to the extension City Council approved on Nov. 1 that was set to expire Jan. 7. More information about the project is available here​.​

The Field House

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 tripled from about 30 events a year from 2003 to 2012, to 94 events in 2015. 

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. ​

The Convention Center Headquarters Hotel

Building a field house 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, but only if a convention center hotel is built. 

Virginia Beach struggles to compete with other cities attempting to attract the same business, hampering our ability to grow non-summer tourism volume because we don’t have a convention center hotel like our competitors do. The type of hotel needed would be a brand name, full-service hotel, upscale or upper scale 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.

Adding a convention center hotel and field house would grow meeting and convention and sports tourism by 57 percent.

Next Steps?

  • ​Feb. 8: Virginia Beach Development Authority issued RFQ for dome site
  • March 7: Arena letter of financing commitment
  • April 10:  Domes site RFQ responses due
  • March – April: RFQ panel review and interviews
  • Continue analyzing field house options
  • Continue analyzing convention center hotel options

Contact Information