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In Virginia Beach, Success Starts Indoors

4 Jun, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

While it’s clear that many outdoor programs are meeting with success, Virginia Beach, even with its myriad oceanside attractions, has been capturing national attention with its indoor events. The Virginia Beach Sports Center has hosted everything from indoor track and field (including an event that saw a new world record) to youth basketball – and it has done so safely.

First, though, some background on the venue. It encompasses 285,000 square feet of space, with room for 12 basketball courts, 24 volleyball courts, a 200-meter and hydraulically banked track. With seating for 5,000 spectators, it offers an additional 195,000 square feet of programmable space that can accommodate a variety of events using court space along with the ability to lay the track flat.

In the first five months of its 2020 opening, the Virginia Beach Sports Center held 26 events, welcoming 25,000 athletes into the center to compete. Nancy Hellman, the Interim Director of the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, noted these events led people to book an estimated 13,000 hotel room night stays in Virginia Beach.

Shortly after opening in October 2020, the Sports Center announced that the NCAA Championships for men’s/women’s indoor track/field would be hosted at the complex for four years beginning in 2023.

In December 2020, when many communities were still tiptoeing (or even standing on the verge of) the sports space, Virginia Beach kicked the door down, hosting the nation’s first indoor track & field meet, with more than 1,100 athletes from 26 different states and the District of Columbia participating during the Virginia Season Opener. And it did so safely.

“The Virginia Beach Sports Center followed all executive orders put in place by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to maintain safety measures for tournaments held in Virginia Beach,” said Dani Timm, Interim Director of Sports Marketing, Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The Forward Virginia plan updates from Governor Northam implemented in March 2021 allowed for the number of spectators at recreational sporting events to increase from 25 to 100 people per field or 30 percent capacity (whichever is less for indoor settings) and from 250 to 500 people per field or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less for outdoor settings.”

To ensure the event adhered to the Governor’s Executive Orders, the Virginia Beach Sports Center split the Opener into several individual sessions over the span of two days. Each session rotated spectators and athletes, which allowed the facility to host the meet and remain within the occupancy limit. Live streaming was available for families and spectators who could not attend due to the limited occupancy of the facility.

Then the sports center helped make history. While hosting the 2021 Virginia Showcase Championship, the largest track meet in the country, a new world U20 record was set in Virginia Beach by a group of four high school-aged girls. That record eclipsed one that had stood for nearly three decades – since 1991.

As a side note, the 2021 Virginia Showcase Championship brought nearly 2,500 athletes from 40 states – and the Virginia Beach Sports Center was a new location for the event, which had to be moved from the Liberty University Indoor Track Complex in Lynchburg.

But the Sports Center – and Virginia Beach as a whole – has not been resting on its laurels. In April 2021, two Tidewater Volleyball Association tournaments visited, including 20 adult teams and a new Junior Volleyball Association-sanctioned events – bringing in nearly 1,000 athletes, both adults and youth, who took over 18 of the venue’s 24 hard courts. 

“For the month of April we held 9 events, 9,152 athletes and 7000+ room nights,” notes Timm.

In May 2021, Big Shots Basketball Tournament was hosted at the Sports Center and football returned to the Princess Anne Athletic Complex with the NLG-Virginia Beach 7v7 Tournament. These two events brought 2,400 athletes and their families to the coastal city.  

Other events included the 2021 USTA National Level 2 Boys 14U (May 20-24), 2021 Zero Gravity Basketball (May 22-23), 2021 NHSCA National Duals (May 27-31) and 2021 Ralph Downey Memorial Soccer Tournament (May 29-30).

Still to come are the Big Shots Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront Jam X Next Nationals (June 12-13), Ballin at the Beach (June 18-20), VBSC's Virginia Beach Pre-Nationals Tune-Up (June 19-20) and the 2021 Teammate National Championship (June 23-27). The Basketball Nationals and Blue Star Nationals are a first for the sports center since it has hardwood courts.

And that’s only the beginning. According to Timm, another big favorite – this an outside tradition – makes a welcome return this year.

“Our annual Ferguson North American Sand Soccer Championships will take place from June 11-13 and 700 teams are currently registered. The East Coast Surfing Championships return in August as the oldest surfing competition in the world. And this fall we look forward to softball, basketball, volleyball, Special Olympics, indoor track and more.”

And, notes the destination’s marketing arm, throughout the pandemic, while many other organizations canceled events, the Virginia Beach Sports Center has kept the dreams of young athletes alive with their strategic use of the venue’s space. The team is well versed in organizational logistics and are poised to continue hosting bigger and better events in the future.

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