Parking, congestion among concerns over proposed Oceanfront sports complex

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The city has proposed building an indoor sports facility next to the Virginia Beach Convention Center, but year-round residents are concerned about commercial congestion, traffic and parking.

A plan for an entertainment district include an arena, the redevelopment of the former Dome Site and the construction of a 150,000 square-foot facility to house sports tournaments. The plan is to have hardwood to house basketball, volleyball and gymnastics events.

“It creates a really wonderful local asset, and it also gives us the opportunity to go out and secure more of this very lucrative sports marketing money,” said John Uhrin, who represents the Oceanfront on the city council. “If we were able to get all three [projects] to the finish line, I think you would really see a revitalization of the central part of our resort area that we have never had.”

Uhrin expects the sports center and the other venues to generate a boost in tourism. For example, he says youth sports tournaments would fill Oceanfront hotels in the off-season and the participants would spend money at local businesses.

Connie Horan, who moved to the Oceanfront from busy northern Virginia, says the traffic associated with the new developments could force her to sell.

“I’m not super happy about it,” Horan said, who has seen an increase in congestion in the nine years since moving to Virginia Beach. “Are we going to become so commercial that we lose that kind of small town feel?”

Uhrin says the sports facility will cost about $25 million, which has already been approved in a capital improvement plan. The council still has to decide whether to approve or deny the funding.

In a recent council work session, Councilwoman Barbara Henley raised concern about the development and parking.

“I am feeling like we are overwhelming this area,” she said.

Uhrin tells it’s possible “multiple parking structures” will have to be built, but he says there is room for everything.

Horan says she wants clarity on how her tax money would be spent.

“Are we really going to be making enough, after what we are shelling out, to do this,” said Horan.

City Manager Dave Hansen has said the city would like to conduct interviews with developers in early December. The council will then decide whether to proceed with the project.

Meanwhile, the developer of the arena, United States Management, is approaching a Nov. 7 deadline to secure a loan for $200 million to move the project forward.