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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)


The price of a new indoor sports facility at the Oceanfront shot up by $28 million with the addition of a specialized track and parking.

The City Council will vote on an agreement for the $68 million project next month, and site work is scheduled to begin in August. MEB of Chesapeake will be the general contractor.

The original concept for the center would have cost the city about $40 million, and was based on a building that was 50 percent smaller than what is planned.

"It did not include a track, and parking was not included because it was going to be built with the arena project," Deputy City Manager Ron Williams said.

It will cost $10 million for 1,100 surface spaces. The existing Convention Center lots will be reworked to accommodate the center, and new spaces will be added where the city owns a wooded lot on the east side of Birdneck Road.

Williams said the campus will be dubbed Virginia Beach Convention & Sports Center.

The facility will be on the south side of 19th Street, near where the city had wanted to build an 18,000-seat arena. The city ended its contract with Mid-Atlantic Arena LLC in November after it said the company failed to meet a deadline for financing.

City leaders commissioned a study on building a field house near the Oceanfront two years ago. Sports tourism is a growing revenue generator for cities. Families travel to destinations for tournaments, stay in hotels, shop and go out for meals.

Virginia Beach hosted 93 sporting events in the last fiscal year, leading to 120,815 booked hotel room nights. About 20 percent of those were indoors at the Convention Center or the field house in Princess Anne, according to the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The center will be an L-shaped building with a track and courts at opposite ends. The oval-shaped hydraulic track can be raised or lowered for banked corners and will meet NCAA standards. It includes more than 4,400 spectator seats. The courts can be converted to accommodate basketball, volleyball, wrestling, gymnastics, cheer and field hockey. They also have spectator seating.

Construction is expected to start in December and be completed in 2020.

Public facility revenue bonds will fund the project. Taxes on restaurant meals, hotel rooms and amusements would be used to pay off the debt.

The building's footprint requires a special exemption to design codes, and details were discussed Wednesday at the Planning Commission meeting. The entrance will face 19th Street.

A resident who lives off Virginia Beach Boulevard expressed concern about how the back of the sports center would look and requested that landscaping be added to screen it from view.

Commissioner Jeff Hodgson said he's met with local property owners who share concerns about the back of the building's appearance.

"Seventeenth Street is going through a much-needed facelift just in the last couple of years, and hopefully it's going to continue back all the way to this building," Hodgson said. "It would be an absolute shame to just have a giant metal wall along the boulevard."

City planner Ashby Moss said more design details will be presented in the site plan approval process.

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June 16, 2018


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