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Henrico County opens new sports and events center

The Henrico Sports & Events Center is seen
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
The Henrico Sports and Events Center is seen on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 in Glen Allen, Virginia.

Local officials celebrated the latest recreation redevelopment at its official opening Monday.

Hundreds of Henrico residents received a full-access tour of the county’s latest redevelopment in the Fairfield District, as the Henrico Sports & Events Center officially opened its doors to the public on Monday.

After three years of construction, the 185,000-square-foot facility — located near the now-closed Virginia Center Commons — is finally complete and poised to enhance the county’s growing sports tourism economy.

“Welcome to ‘Showtime, all the time!’” said Dennis Bickmeier, director of Henrico’s Sports and Entertainment Authority. "We made it."

The idea behind Henrico’s new recreation center began sometime in 2017, according to County Manager John Vithoulkas. He recalled how the late Richard Glover, the longest-serving Henrico supervisor, encouraged the county to build a convocation center. (Glover died in 2017.)

“There's a huge sense of relief right now that this night has finally arrived, and we're very proud of what we've been able to build,” Bickmeier said.

Over time, the county began investing more toward recreational amenities through voter referendums and strategic planning. In 2020, the Henrico supervisors threw their support behind the purchase and a $50 million investment in a multi-use facility.

“This facility will enrich the recreational and economic prospects for our residents, our visitors and our community,” Vithoulkas said Monday. “Tonight, we celebrate the promising future that awaits with this innovative addition to our community.”

The new arena has already booked over 45 events through 2024 — including graduation ceremonies for Henrico County Public Schools, the Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball tournament in 2024 and 2025, the Special Olympics of Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Volleyball Tournament and the All American Gymnastics competition, among others.

Henrico hired ASM Global, a Los Angeles–based event management company, to operate the center. The county is projected to generate more than $60 million annually from its sports and events programming alone.

Recent reports from Axios show that the county collected around $1.7 billion in “director visitor spending” in 2022.

With the groundbreaking of a 17,000-seat arena development on the horizon, Bickmeier said the county is poised to lure in more events, developers and establish the county as a go-to destination.

“Our hope is that this facility is a place of community, a place of sportsmanship, competition, and certainly a lot of enjoyment for years to come,” he said.

Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.