Henrico touts the flexibility of arena planned for GreenCity
Officials say venue could be configured for events smaller than 17K capacity
The 17,000-seat arena that’s part of the proposed $2.3 billion development announced by Henrico County on Tuesday won’t always be a 17,000-seat arena, a member of the county’s Board of Supervisors said Wednesday.
There would be flexibility involving its capacity, making the facility suitable for many kinds of athletics and other events, according to Dan Schmitt, who represents the Brookland District and also serves on the Sports Backers board of directors.
Schmitt noted that for financial reasons, an arena that holds 16,000, 17,000 or 18,000 may be attractive to promoters of conventions, concerts and other shows, and some sporting events. But Schmitt also said that the arena that’s planned for Henrico could set up to operate with a capacity significant less than 17,000 to accommodate other sports happenings and community events.
“The final piece [17,000] is a key number for large touring acts. A lot of their revenue is generated on the ticket sale,” Schmitt said. “If
you want to see those acts these days, the revenue potential for them at that larger number is going to win that act over a venue that they can make less money at with less seats.”
On Tuesday, Henrico announced plans for GreenCity, a 250-acre mixeduse development to be built on and around the site of the former corporate headquarters of catalog showroom retailer Best Products, off East Parham Road and Interstate 95.
The $245 million arena, which could be completed by 2025, is expected to be able to curtain off its upper level to reduce capacity, or “half-house it,” according to Schmitt.
“These buildings are coming with really good options these days.”
At reduced capacity, the arena may become the home of minor league hockey or minor league basketball, Schmitt believes.
“This private developer, I’m sure, is going to secure a private operator to operate the arena,” he said. “And in order for them to meet their [business] goals, they’re going to have to hit 15 to 18 to 20 touring acts, family shows, bull riding, WWE, monster trucks. …
“But a tenant is a key
piece of that, and I would anticipate them being very aggressive” for minor league hockey or basketball, or both.
The arena could appeal to the NCAA for its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, Schmitt said. He added that conferences with schools in the region may also be interested in holding league tournaments there.
The University of Richmond’s vice president and director of athletics, John Hardt, said Tuesday that the Atlantic 10 Conference, to which UR and Virginia Commonwealth University belong, has monitored developments in Richmond-area competition venues.
“Though I haven’t had any direct discussions with [ A- 10 Commissioner
Bernadette McGlade], I have to believe that this project will be of real interest to the league,” Hardt said.
Additionally, a new arena in the Richmond area could be a spot where VCU and UR may be able to play opponents that prefer not to face those teams at the Rams’ Siegel Center or the Spiders’ Robins Center, but would be open to a neutral site.
“Obviously, there are a lot of details that would have to fall into place, but I think there’s generally an interest to think about drawing events to the Richmond area, in addition to us hosting our usual robust schedule at the Robins Center,” Hardt said.