Henrico County’s quest for an indoor sports and convocation center appears to have lined up a developer, while the venue’s potential location remains undisclosed.
County officials are slated to enter into negotiations with local firm The Rebkee Co. for a public-private project to design, construct and operate the sought-after arena, proposals for which have been reviewed and resubmitted since an RFP went out in mid-2018. A resolution authorizing the talks between the two sides is on county supervisors’ agenda for their meeting this Tuesday.
Rebkee was among six respondents who submitted proposals, two of which were given initial consideration. But the county this year requested more-detailed proposals from the respondents because their previous responses did not specify locations in which the respondent had a property interest.
According to the board paper, the county received detailed proposals from Rebkee, Eastern Sports Management LLC and MEB General Contractors. Consulting firm The Working Group has reviewed the proposals and recommended that the county enter into negotiations with Rebkee, with concurrence from County Manager John Vithoulkas.
A public hearing on the three proposals is to be held at a later date.
The resolution that will be heard Tuesday does not indicate whether the Rebkee proposal is the same or significantly changed from what the firm initially submitted last year. Calls Friday to Rebkee principals Dan Hargett and Rob Hargett were not returned, and county officials declined to discuss the matter ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.
Rebkee’s initial submission was a joint proposal with Richmond-based construction and development firm Hourigan Group. Sections detailing project location and characteristics and financing were redacted from a version made publicly available on the county’s website.
The arena’s location has been a sticking point in the county’s review up to this point. The county had been looking at locating the arena in the vicinity of the Richmond Raceway complex along Laburnum Avenue, but discussions over a proposed site there fell through this summer, according to media reports at the time.
Rocky Mount visit
In August, the board and administrators traveled to North Carolina to tour the Rocky Mount Event Center, joined by the county parks and rec advisory commission and Richmond Region Tourism.
Following that tour, supervisors directed Vithoulkas to seek the more-detailed proposals, which were to include a controllable site for the center and the price the county would pay for the land.
Rebkee’s initial proposal listed the arena operator as Spectra, the same company recently announced as lined up to operate a proposed arena that would replace the Richmond Coliseum and anchor the $1.5 billion Navy Hill project. Spectra also operates the Greater Richmond Convention Center and VSU Multi-Purpose Center.
Other firms listed in Rebkee’s proposal were architecture firm HKS, engineering firm Timmons Group, and mechanical engineer Pace Collaborative. A structural engineer had not been selected.
Rebkee is already active in Henrico with several projects, including its collaboration with Thalhimer Realty Partners on the mixed-use conversion of Regency Square mall.
Henrico plans for the arena to accommodate basketball, volleyball and other indoor sports, to capitalize on the county’s steady sports tourism numbers. Last year, sports tourism accounted for $54 million in local economic impact, according to the county, which hosted more than 170 tournaments at its parks and sports complexes. The county’s on track to hit 180-plus tournaments this year.
The facility also would host high school graduations, currently held at VCU’s Siegel Center. Without a comparable indoor venue, the county projects that it’s missing out on $33 million in estimated annual spending from sports events specifically.
Tuesday’s board meeting starts at 7 p.m. An update on the project will be presented to the board at a work session to be held at 5 p.m.