Henrico establishes Sports & Entertainment Authority to enhance tourism

Authority will oversee growing portfolio of facilities, including new indoor center

The Henrico Board of Supervisors on Tuesday formally established the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority to boost sports tourism and manage the county’s growing number of public-private facilities, which will soon include an indoor sports and events facility at Virginia Center Commons.

Dennis Bickmeier, who was appointed in March to serve as the authority’s executive director, heralded the unanimous vote to create the authority and thanked the supervisors for recognizing how sports and entertainment can enhance Henrico’s quality of life by expanding entertainment and recreational opportunities for residents, strengthening businesses and bolstering tax revenues. The idea for the authority emerged from the supervisors’ annual retreat in 2021 and gained traction with the county’s plan to open the Henrico Sports & Events Center at Virginia Center Commons and a developer’s plan to build a 17,000-seat arena to anchor the GreenCity development.

“The launch of the authority will provide a great opportunity for our team and partners to bring even more sports and entertainment business to Henrico and the region,” Bickmeier said. “With all our current sports venues and the new facilities coming online, as stated in our new tagline, it’s now ‘Showtime. All the Time.’”

In addition to revealing the authority’s logo and tagline, Bickmeier shared an animated graphic that will be used for promotions and presented each supervisor with a grey or blue polo shirt embroidered with the logo. The authority’s website – henricosea.com – is under development. Seven county staff members, with expertise in procurement, finance and general operations, were sworn in as the first members of the authority’s board of directors. The authority currently has a full-time staff of four, including Bickmeier.

The authority’s official start comes as crews are preparing to begin installing wall panels on the Henrico Sports & Events Center’s steel frame. On Monday, county officials are scheduled to gather with members of the news media to celebrate the construction milestone and offer a first look at the facility. The 185,000-square-foot facility is expected to open by September 2023 and will accommodate basketball and volleyball tournaments as well as high school graduations and other events. The $50-million center is being built through a partnership between the county and Rebkee Co., which is redeveloping the former Virginia Center Commons mall property with housing, retail and other uses.

The indoor center and GreenCity arena will become part of a burgeoning and increasingly diverse portfolio of field complexes and other venues available for sports tourism. Other recent additions include Belmont Golf Course, which reopened in 2021 after an extensive renovation by First Tee-Greater Richmond; the Frank J. Thornton YMCA Aquatic Center, which opened in 2020 and is operated by the YMCA of Greater Richmond; and four NBA-, WNBA- and NCAA-size outdoor basketball courts at Fairfield Middle School, which opened in June under the management of the Division of Recreation & Parks.

In 2021, Henrico hosted 160 tournaments that generated nearly $60 million in economic activity, which includes spending at hotels, restaurants and other businesses. That was below the county’s record high of $66.2 million in 2019 but above the $47.3 million from 2020, when tournaments were limited due to COVID-19. Henrico began tracking the economic impact of sports tourism in 2013. The events held in 2021 included the USA Softball 12U Girls’ Fast Pitch Class A National Championship, the 137th USA Archery Target Nationals and U.S. Open and the 27th International Senior Softball World Championships.

For more information on the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority or to schedule a tournament or other event in Henrico, contact Dawn Miller at (804) 501-5137 or [email protected].

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