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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)


VIRGINIA BEACH — Two hundred girls basketball teams from around the country are playing on 10 courts inside the Convention Center this weekend. If city leaders have their way, those teams could compete in a nearby field house within two years.

The City Council will vote May 9 on whether to set aside the first $4 million of a $40 million plan for the facility as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget.

The city plans to build a field house on land it owns near the Convention Center on 19th Street at the Oceanfront. The city would use public facility revenue bonds, which are issued by the Virginia Beach Development Authority. Taxes on restaurant meals, hotel rooms and amusements would be used to pay off the debt.

The city already has a field house on Landstown Centre Way in Princess Anne, but a recent study done for the city concluded that more space for traveling amateur teams is needed, and building it near the Oceanfront's stock of hotels would benefit the city the most.

The field house would cost $1.2 million a year to operate and maintain. It's not expected to make money, but it would bring in tourism dollars.

Indoor facilities attract events during the winter months, increasing overnight stays in Oceanfront hotels from October through April, when there tends to be fewer visitors.

If funded, the design would begin this summer. The 150,000-square-foot facility would have 10 to 12 basketball courts that could be converted into 20 to 24 volleyball courts.

Construction could be completed by summer 2019.

Several private companies have expressed interest in building and running the field house, including the arena developer, said Councilman John Uhrin, who represents the resort area.

"If we have a private operation to bring in out-of-town tournaments, operationally, it's a better deal for the city," Uhrin said.

The field house would be built at the same time as the planned 18,000-seat arena, and would ultimately form a "campus complex," with the Convention Center, Deputy City Manager Ron Williams said.

"The three together really do make a destination that is not just confined to the one event and the one facility," Williams said. "There's much more opportunity for leveraging those three assets together."

Parking options are still being analyzed as plans for the arena and the Dome site move forward, Williams said.

The Convention & Visitors Bureau envisions more conferences and national group meetings at the Convention Center, particularly if a headquarters hotel is built. The field house would attract traveling amateur sports teams and serve as a warm-up facility before games in the arena.

"The field house can be that extra space if we land a major college basketball tournament," Williams said.

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April 30, 2017


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