VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — More than just the beautiful beaches draw tourists to Virginia Beach. From the popular North American Sand Soccer Championship to winter high school basketball tournaments, sports play a big role in making the resort city a year-round destination.

Like almost everything else, sports tourism was hit hard by the pandemic.

There’s hope for an economic rebound in 2021, lighted by the on-time completion of the new indoor Virginia Beach Sports Center. The $68 million state-of-the-art center is set to open this fall and already has some big events on deck.

“Sports tourism is an important industry for Virginia Beach. It’s a significant economic driver” said Nancy Helman the director of sports marketing for the city. “Outside visitors create economic impact by staying in our hotels, eating in our restaurants, renting our cars, and having a positive experience in Virginia Beach.”

The Virginia Beach Sports Center, located just across the street from the Virginia Beach Convention Center, will host a diverse roster of sporting events and tournaments when it opens in November.

The new venue will feature 285,000 square feet of space, including 12 basketball courts, 24 volleyball courts, a 200 meter, hydraulically banked track, seating for 5,000 spectators and more.

It’s also just steps away from local shops, restaurants and attractions, including the boardwalk and beaches of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.

As far as events before the new facility opens, the city is working to get back on track.

“We certainly monitor the lost revenue and the economic impact that would have been designated for Virginia Beach,” Helman explained. “But we’re also hoping that once the events rebook or reschedule, we’re focusing on 2021, that that impact will return and fill those voids [from the pandemic].”

Helman says they’re strictly following the governor’s guidelines when it comes to hosting sporting events now, before the new sports center reopens. The city recently began hosting a few outdoor tournaments and events for sports like lacrosse and baseball.

Indoor sports are on hold until it’s safe to play.

The good news Helman says is most events are post-poning and rescheduling rather than canceling.

“We constantly are working with event owners to establish mitigation plans and working with them to identify ways that they can host their event. Whether it’s working with them on scheduling to ensure there’s not too many people in a venue at on time, working with them on social distancing while in the facilities and that sort of thing.”

In December of last year, MEB General Contractors said progress in the construction of the 285,000-square-foot sports center was going well.

At that time, the track venue, the 4,500-seat fixed bleachers, were 90 percent complete. The track hydraulic and rail system had been installed.

MEB General Contractors turned over the new parking lot to the Virginia Beach City Government and are working on-site utilities, new turn lanes, sidewalks, and additional parking areas.

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