Henrico proceeding with plans for indoor sports center

—Demolition of project site at Virginia Center Commons to begin in November

After a delay of several months stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, Henrico County is moving forward with development of an indoor sports facility and convocation center at Virginia Center Commons.

At its Oct. 13 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted to approve about $1.9 million for the design and preparation of construction plans and for demolition of an existing structure on the county-owned portion of the site.

Henrico entered into negotiations with the Rebkee Co. in November 2019 to begin work on the project and subsequently acquired 25 acres at the mall. The Board of Supervisors approved a budget capped at $50 million.

In February, the Henrico Economic Development Authority issued $50 million in lease revenue bonds to fund the project. With the pandemic’s arrival in March, county officials put plans for the facility — as well as other capital projects — on hold as a dramatic downturn impacted the local economy. Henrico cut $99 million from its 2020-21 fiscal year budget in April as a result of the downturn.

With signs that local economy is beginning to mend, the effort now is resuming. Design work and demolition of the former Sears building are set to get underway in November. Demolition is expected to be completed by March.

Construction plans and a final project budget are expected to be ready for review by the Board of Supervisors by early next summer. The county is aiming for completion by late summer 2022.

Officials believe the indoor sports facility and convocation center will further strengthen Henrico’s sports tourism program by adding a much-needed, high-profile venue for basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports tournaments to the county’s roster of recreation facilities.

The center will feature an adaptable event space of more than 115,000 square feet with room for up to 12 regulation NCAA basketball courts or 24 volleyball courts and a 4,500-seat arena with stadium seating. The center also will include a mezzanine level with viewing areas, multiple entrances and exits, meeting and changing rooms, vendor and concessions areas and a broadcast room, among other amenities. 

The center is designed to attract regional and national tournaments, officials said, while offering additional competitive space for local teams. It also will be able to host large community events, such as graduations.

The county facility will be a central part of a broader redevelopment of the Virginia Center Commons property being undertaken by Rebkee, highlighted by a hotel and a mix of retail and residential uses.

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