Henrico County is scuttling its plans for a new indoor arena at the Richmond Raceway after negotiations with the owners of the racetrack on Laburnum Avenue recently fell through.
Henrico officials started working toward a deal last winter after the Board of Supervisors endorsed two proposals that aligned with the county’s vision for an indoor arena about the same size of the VCU Siegel Center at the Richmond Raceway.
Both options, County Manager John Vithoulkas said, were “contingent” on the raceway location. “All of that has gone by the wayside because the location is no longer in play,” he said. “We just couldn’t come to an agreement on the land.”
In an interview ahead of an official trip to Rocky Mount, N.C., on Friday to visit an indoor facility similar to what Henrico is considering, Vithoulkas said the county will soon ask developers to submit new proposals.
While Henrico considered constructing an indoor arena nearly 20 years ago as part of a bond referendum, officials brought it up again last year as a way to build upon the region’s growing sports tourism market that business analysts say boosts spending at hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Richmond Raceway spokesman Brent Gambill confirmed in a text message that negotiations with Henrico had fallen through.
“While we were unable to come to an agreement on this project, we look forward to continuing to work with Henrico County for the betterment of the community as we seek to grow sports tourism and entertainment in the region,” Gambill said.
Gambill declined to answer questions about negotiations ending; Vithoulkas said the county wants to own the land underneath the arena to make the project work financially.
“There’s not going to be a recommendation that goes to the Board of Supervisors unless it’s absolutely beneficial to the taxpayers of the county,” Vithoulkas said.
County officials last winter estimated that the new arena could generate approximately $17 million in annual visitor spending, and that having a private operator manage it would save the county about $2.5 million in annual operating costs.
Officials kept other details about the project, including a county-commissioned firm’s evaluation of the proposals and the potential arrangement with the raceway, guarded earlier this year, denying requests for documents and information exempt from mandatory disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
Henrico Board Chairman Tyrone Nelson said he hasn’t been involved in the negotiations, and had been expecting the county to finalize the terms of an operator agreement this summer.
While Nelson had been an early proponent for placing the arena at the raceway, he said he hopes the new proposals will recommend locations that are centrally located so that people on opposite ends of the county don’t feel left out.
“I was hoping some miracle could happen,” he said of the proposed raceway location. “Somewhere along the way a snag was hit, so we’re restarting the process. We’ll see what comes of it.”
Vithoulkas said the Board of Supervisors will review the project and decide on its next steps at its meeting Aug. 13.