WILLIAMSBURG — Plans for a regional indoor sports center have moved a step forward after an interim agreement was reached with a firm to design and build the facility near Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center.
The Historic Triangle Recreational Facilities Authority (HTRFA) on Wednesday voted unanimously to negotiate an interim agreement with MEB for the 160,000-square-foot-center. The authority is a governing body made up of members from the three Historic Triangle localities — Williamsburg, James City County and York County — to oversee the regional indoor sports facility.
Area leaders have said the goal of the complex is to offer a facility for traveling sports teams to compete and to bring in tourism revenue to the area.
The HTRFA will consider approval of the interim agreement at its October meeting. The agreement allows the design work to begin on the signature project in Williamsburg, which the authority hopes to build on the campus of the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center.
MEB General Contractors of Chesapeake built Virginia Beach’s new $68 million indoor sports complex that opened in October 2020.
Architectural firms Clark Nexsen, Guernsey Tingle and Timmons Group are part of the design-build team for the project. The facility will be at least 160,000 square feet and include 12 basketball courts that can be converted into 24 volleyball courts and 36 pickleball courts. Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States.
When an interim agreement is established, HTRFA will work with the team to create 30% of the design drawings, the authority stated in a press release.
“That level of detail allows the authority to take all the operational materials and aesthetic considerations into account and obtain meaningful project cost estimates,” the press release stated.
The HTRFA is to finalize lease negotiations with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for the land at the preferred site at 100 Visitor Center Dr., according to Wednesday’s announcement.
The detailed proposal, including final pricing and design elements, will face votes before Williamsburg, James City County and York County officials next year.
HTRFA said it received two unsolicited proposals for a regional sports facility at its inaugural meeting in January 2022. The authority began soliciting bids through the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act in February.
The process allowed HTRFA to choose its preferred proposal for designing and building a regional sports facility and to negotiate a contract. “No viable proposals came through the bid process, so only the two unsolicited proposals were considered.”
As part of the proposal review process, the authority convened an advisory panel made up of regional stakeholders in the banking, tourism, and economic development industries, the press release stated. The HTRFA is tasked with leasing the property, procuring the construction and financing for the project, and managing the operations of the sports complex once it has been constructed.
The City of Williamsburg has championed the idea of promoting itself as a destination for sports tourism since 2014. Mayor Doug Pons revealed the Visitor Center site as a leading candidate for the future sports complex during the first-ever virtual State of the City address in 2020 .
However, concerns about the financial viability of the plan were raised in 2021 by two consultants hired by the city . The consultants agreed Williamsburg was an ideal location for indoor sport tourism events.
James City County Administrator Scott Stevens welcomed the latest development. “We were fortunate to have two excellent firms to choose from and look forward to working with MEB to move this project forward,” he said in an email Wednesday.
David Macaulay, Davidmacaulayva@gmail.com