Lieutenant Governor Sears visits Henrico’s billion-dollar GreenCity project

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears was in Henrico County on Wednesday to get a tour of the $2.3 billion GreenCity project.

“We need more of this, we need this in other areas of our Commonwealth that are hurting,” Sears said.

The project will include green space, residential, retail offices and a 17,000-seat arena.

“This will be the largest project that the county has ever undertaken,” said Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas.

The arena drew significant attention on Wednesday as county leaders said it will serve as one of two anchors for their next expansion in sports tourism.

“We’ve been doing an amazing job in sports tourism with the outdoor game — baseball, softball, soccer. But the stage is set now to really own the indoor game,” Dennis Bickmeier, the executive director for Henrico County’s Sports and Entertainment authority, said.

Bickmeier said the other anchor is only a few miles away from the indoor sports and convocation center at Virginia Center Commons.

“It’s 185,000 square feet overall. 12 basketball courts that can be converted to 24 volleyball courts,” Bickmeier said. He added the sports tourism industry is somewhat recession-proof and was among the first to bounce back after the pandemic. “We’re seeing just a tremendous upturn over the last two years, obviously, coming out of 2020. And we expect that to continue to climb.”

Bickmeier said that in the last fiscal year, Henrico saw $60 million from sports tourism but losses of $33 million annually from having to turn away indoor events because they didn’t have the facilities.

“We don’t have to say no anymore. It’s going to be the challenge now to try to fit everything into the calendar,” Bickmeier said.

Bickmeier added that because they are so close, they plan to pitch both sites as a tandem, with one hosting the event and the other serving as a practice facility. He said they are already discussing groups to pitch to.

“Think USA Gymnastics, things like that. USA Hockey Championships and things in this type of buildings, things that we haven’t seen in our region before,” Bickmeier said.

They are also eyeing the next bid cycle for the NCAA tournament while the developers said hockey leagues have expressed interest in the area. They both added the arena can serve as an another stop for a-list musical acts along the eastern seaboard.

Bickmeier said the VCC site is expected to be opened in September 2023, while the GreenCity arena should open sometime between late-2025 and early-2026.


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