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Developer: Surf park will boost tourism, bring new technology to Oceanfront

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) -- A proposed surf park at the Oceanfront would be able to generate 1,000 perfect waves an hour and allow the operator to modify wave height up to six feet, according to the team behind the project.

Mike Culpepper with Venture Realty Group, Alec Yuzhbabenko with Hanbury Architects and Joe LaMontagne with H20 Investments have been collaborating since February 2017 on a plan to redevelop the former Dome site. Venture Realty Group has entered into an exclusive partnership with the City of Virginia Beach to come up with a concept.

The three men, who all graduated from Kellam High School, traveled to Spain in September to see the Wavegarden technology in action. Culpepper says the product is an athletic center, not a wave pool.

"It's a place for folks who are experienced surfers and it's a place for folks who are novice surfers just learning how to surf to come and experience what it's like to ride a wave," said Culpepper.

The surf park is the centerpiece of The Wave, a proposed $300 million mixed-use development to include apartments, office space, retail, a music venue and parking.

Critics have argued against a surf park at public hearings and council meetings. They say it's too close to the Atlantic Ocean.

Yuzhbabenko, who created the initial design, says the demand is still high.

"Everyone jokes Virginia Beach for not having any waves. It's kind of like we're a surf town with a wave problem," said Alec Yuzhbabenko. "There's so much culture around surfing. There's so many people that surf."

Yuzhbabenko says the surf park will be open to one-day visitors, including kids and families, but it will also serve professional surfers much like a gym membership.

"You're not having to rely on weather conditions and tides and wind; all these things that limit when and where you can surf. Here, it's on demand," he said.

Joe LaMontagne says he expects the surf park to draw people from outside the area looking for guaranteed waves. He also says it'll be a great place for people to learn the sport.

"I think you are going to get people that never thought they would go surfing, I think you are going to see them in this facility trying to learn how to surf," said LaMontagne. "There's a lot of people who don't want to go in the ocean because there's sharks out there. They are scared of what they can't see."

The project still needs the green light from city officials. Venture Realty Group is currently conducting several feasibility studies and plans to work out terms with the city by late May.

The agreement will include the amount of taxpayer money to be used for the project. Ron Williams, deputy city manager, told WAVY.com in January the city would likely pay for parking and landscaping. Culpepper says the music venue would also be at the city's expense.

"It's really important to us to bring to the market a project that is not only going to sustain itself, but a project that is going to promote revenues around this project for the benefit of local businesses and local taxpayers," said Culpepper. "The last thing we want to do is develop something that you find in every other town on the East Coast."

Pharrell Williams has partnered with Venture Realty Group on the project. Culpepper says the singer has been an active participant in the planning process.


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