Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Henrico arena drew capacity crowd during A-10 women’s basketball tourney

Players make confetti angels
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Richmond forward Faye Parker (24) makes confetti angels with teammate forward Maggie Doogan (44) the A10 Women’s basketball championship on Sunday, March 10, 2024 at Henrico Sports and Events Center in Richmond, Virginia.

The five-day competition attracted 11,000 people to the refurbished complex.

A sea of red-clad University of Richmond supporters flooded Henrico County’s sports arena Sunday as the Spiders competed in the Atlantic 10 Conference women’s basketball tournament championship game.

The Spiders were among 12 teams from around the country that competed in one of the inaugural events at the redeveloped Henrico Sports & Events Center.

Richmond — led by head coach Aaron Roussell — overcame Rhode Island University in a 65-5 win, earning the program’s first conference championship since its 1991 season. The team will now compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Roussell reflected on what it meant for his team to win a conference title so close to home.

“This is an incredible thing for our region,” Roussell said. “Henrico’s sports association really just knocked this out of the park.”

Dennis Bickmeier, executive director of the Henrico Sports & Entertainment Authority, said he and county staff are still reeling from the multiday tournament.

“We're a little tired, but we’re also running on a lot of high energy and enthusiasm,” Bickmeier said. “So, that kept us going, that’s for sure.”

During the arena’s construction, Bickmeier touted the facility's ability to provide an economic boost to the county, projecting the $50-million development would generate more than $60 million annually from its sports and events programming.

The tournament averaged about 2,000 people a game, and about 11,000 attended events throughout the weekend, according to a spokesperson from the sports authority. A March 8 game exceeded the venue’s seating capacity of 3,500, and the championship game on Sunday drew about 3,000 fans.

Although lodging and meals revenues haven’t yet been assessed by the sports authority, Bickmeier said the attendance alone showcases the arena’s ability to attract revenue.

“We're already fielding calls from other people that are interested in hosting something similar,” Bickmeier said. “I got a lot of text messages about how good it looked on television and everything.”

Atlantic 10 Conference representatives, including Associate Director Ben Kessler, were also pleased with the tournament.

“All our coaches and student-athletes absolutely loved it, first-class all the way around,” Kessler said in a statement. “The community support was terrific, resulting in an incredible crowd for our championship game on ESPN2 on Sunday.”

Bickmeier said the tournament also raised the event center’s local profile.

“I think we showed a lot of people what this building can do,” Bickmeier said. “I feel like what we've done is built a solid foundation of attracting events and bringing in revenue for the county, all while making sure it's a good experience for the student-athletes, coaches and guests.”

Henrico is set to host the A-10 women’s basketball tournament again next year, as well as a range of other events.

Corrected: March 15, 2024 at 2:44 PM EDT
A previous version of this story misidentified head coach of the University of Richmond Spiders.
Lyndon German covers Henrico and Hanover counties for VPM News.
Related Stories