In new role, longtime head of Richmond Raceway will bolster sports tourism
Dennis Bickmeier has been appointed to lead a new authority that will oversee Henrico County’s sports tourism program and manage its private-public facilities, including an indoor events center under construction at Virginia Center Commons.
Bickmeier has served as president of Richmond Raceway since 2011, overseeing the 1,100-acre motorsports and multipurpose entertainment complex that hosts two premier NASCAR race weekends and more than 200 concerts, trade and consumer shows and other events per year. In 2018, the raceway, on Laburnum Avenue in eastern Henrico, completed $30 million in infield improvements, including a new safety building, garage and media center.
“Dennis Bickmeier is the absolute best person to lead the new Henrico County Sports and Entertainment Authority,” County Manager John A. Vithoulkas said. “He knows Henrico and understands how sporting events, concerts and other entertainment can not only attract visitors and fuel our local economy but also raise the quality of life for our residents and communities. I have worked closely with Dennis throughout his tenure at Richmond Raceway and have seen him apply his leadership and expertise to strengthen community relationships and transform the facility into a more vibrant, modern and versatile sports and events complex.”
Vithoulkas added, “Henrico has a lot to offer in sports tourism, from our existing facilities and fields, the new venue at Virginia Center Commons and the 17,000-seat arena planned at GreenCity. With Dennis leading our efforts, I see endless possibilities for creating great visitor experiences, jobs, spending for our hotels, restaurants and other businesses and other benefits that will enliven and enrich our county and region.”
Bickmeier previously held positions with Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, Big West Conference and several major league sports teams – the Los Angeles Angels of Major League Baseball, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim of the National Hockey League and the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in journalism and sports administration and facility management, respectively, from Ohio University.
In addition to his work at Richmond Raceway, Bickmeier serves on the boards of directors for Richmond Region Tourism, the Henrico Education Foundation and the Henrico Police Athletic League. He is active with the Retail Merchants Association, ChamberRVA and the Henrico Career & Technical Center. A resident of Glen Allen, Bickmeier also has worked closely with Henrico throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with Richmond Raceway having served as a site for mass vaccinations and testing.
Construction is underway on Henrico’s 180,000-square-foot indoor sports and convocation center at Virginia Center Commons. Expected to open by September 2023, the facility will accommodate basketball and volleyball tournaments as well as high school graduations and other events. In December, the Board of Supervisors approved a $50 million agreement with the Rebkee Co. to cover all aspects of the facility’s construction.
The center will support a sports tourism program that has flourished over the past decade. The economic impact of tournaments held at Henrico’s athletic complexes, fields and other sites jumped from $33.2 million in 2013 to $66.2 million in 2019.
With indoor events limited due to COVID-19, the county hosted 160 tournaments that generated $59.1 million in economic impact in 2021. Those major events included the USA Softball 12U Girls’ Fast Pitch Class A National Championship; Jefferson Cup; 137th USA Archery Target Nationals and U.S. Open; USA Archery Collegiate Target Nationals; and International Senior Softball Association World Championships.