Event Center FAQ's
The Dare County Tourism Board is in the early stages of developing a multi-use Event Center at The Soundside event site in Nags Head. This project is intended to serve the community with recreational, entertainment and economic opportunities. Several of the most frequently asked questions are addressed below. If you have questions that aren't covered, please email them to EventCenter@outerbanks.org. Thanks for your interest!
When you say “Event Center,” do you mean Convention Center?
No. Convention centers are significantly larger than what is planned for the Outer Banks. For instance, the Virginia Beach Convention Center has a gross square footage of 516,000 as compared to the Event Center’s 48,275…that’s more than 10x the size! For perspective, the Event Center's 48,275 square feet is less than half the size of the Target/former Kmart.
Also, we don’t believe that conventions (very large meetings) represent the best market opportunity for the Outer Banks. The OBX is 1½ hours from a major airport and we have a perception of being somewhat difficult to get to. Plus, convention-goers have an expectation of a hotel being attached to the meeting facility and we aren’t pursuing a hotel on Tourism Board-owned land. While we do expect to attract some smaller conventions and meetings, the Center’s business projections don’t rely on this segment
So, what are we talking about then?
The Event Center’s indoor space will greatly expand our ability to host events throughout the year. It can work in tandem with the outdoor event site or operate on its own.
The strength of the Center rests in its versatility and the diversity of events it will attract. Movable partition walls can subdivide the space into smaller areas. Flooring can be substituted to accommodate sporting tournaments, such as basketball and volleyball. Other anticipated sporting events include but are not limited to wrestling, pickleball, cheerleading and gymnastics.
Live performances are another important use type. The 26,000 square foot main event hall is expected to host concerts of up to 2,500 people, which is sufficient for attracting national touring acts. The design of the building includes a back wall that can open on to the event lawn for even larger concerts. The Event Center is also anticipated to be a popular choice for consumer shows (home, car, boat, etc), smaller tradeshows and for meetings, banquets/galas and other social events.
The Center contains a kitchen area to service the needs of attending events, but the space could also potentially serve as a culinary training and certification site to help attract and train workforce for our local restaurants. Early discussions have taken place with College of the Albemarle and Dare County Schools to explore the idea of working together on this initiative. The kitchen’s benefit to the community could be further extended by providing programming like healthy-living cooking classes in the evening.
Right now, area events are limited by the size of available indoor facilities and/or by their use restrictions. County school and rec buildings, for instance, offer large spaces, but have limitations in terms of alcohol on site and shorter windows for set-up, take-down and outside public use.
Outdoor events are less constrained by space but are hugely limited by weather and temperature. Temporary infrastructure like tents can ease some of the risk posed by weather and season, but those rentals are expensive and subject to availability. The Event Center is designed to easily host a variety of events throughout the entire year.
Why do we need it? What’s in it for me?
Jobs, new money in our economy, more than 14,000 additional room nights for area lodging providers, more recreational and entertainment options for residents and visitors.
The Event Center will give our community something it doesn’t have – a flexible indoor space capable of hosting groups of up to 2,500 people. The building is projected to generate approximately $25 million in new spending annually bringing new dollars into the county and supporting 191 new jobs throughout the community.
The economic impacts are strong on their own, but the Event Center strives to be a part of the local community providing a venue for local youth and adult sports, concerts, banquets, galas, weather-protected events, and culinary training.
Tell me what you mean by “new spending”?
One measure of economic impact refers to the incremental, new spending attributed to a particular facility, in this case, the Event Center. Impacts are described in more detail below:
Direct Spending – the spending that occurs as a direct result of the events and activities in the Event Center. For example, an event attendee’s expenditures on hotel rooms, shopping, and meals are direct spending.
Indirect Spending – consists of re-spending of the initial or direct expenditures, or the supply of goods and services resulting from the initial direct spending in the subject facility. For example, a hotel guest’s direct expenditure on a restaurant meal causes the restaurant to purchase food and other items from suppliers. The portion of these restaurant purchases that are within the local, regional, or state economies is counted as an indirect spending.
Induced Spending – represent changes in local consumption due to the personal spending by employees whose incomes are affected by direct and indirect spending. For example, a waiter at the restaurant may have more personal income because of the hotel guest’s visit. The amount of the increased income the waiter spends in the local economy is called an induced spending.
Total Spending – is the sum of direct spending, indirect spending, and induced spending.
Increased Earnings – measures increased employee and worker compensation related to the project being analyzed. This figure represents increased payroll expenditures, including benefits paid to workers locally. It also expresses how the employees of local businesses share in the increased outputs.
Employment – measures the number of jobs supported in the study area related to the spending generated by the events occurring in the multi-purpose center. Employment impact is stated in terms of full-time equivalent jobs.
Indirect spending, induced spending, increased earnings, and employment are estimated using a set of multiplier rates that are applied to the amount of direct spending. These figures are derived from an IMPLAN input-output model specifically purchased from IMPLAN Group, LLC. IMPLAN is a nationally recognized model commonly used to estimate economic impacts. An input-output model analyzes the commodities and income that normally flow through various sectors of the economy.
How much will the Event Center cost and who’s paying for it?
Construction prices are extremely volatile right now, but the initial rough order of magnitude estimate we received last fall was for approximately $18 million. The Tourism Board has a dedicated line-item within its budget to fund expenses related to the Event Center. That said, we will be exploring a range of funding approaches as the project moves forward.
Isn’t it true that centers usually lose money?
Yes, and this one is projected to operate at a loss too ($312,000 by Year 5). We’ve tried to manage the risk in a couple of key ways, though.
First, a lot of thought went into determining the most appropriate size for the facility. It’s driven by the use types (sports, concerts, etc) and what those uses need. In other words, we’re not oversizing and hoping for new market segments to materialize. This matters because the bigger the building, the bigger the expenses to build and operate (and another reason why we’re not pursuing a larger, traditional convention center).
Another way we’re managing risk is by not overly relying on any one particular business segment. The Center is intentionally designed to be highly flexible and accommodate a diverse range of uses. Not only that, but we’re trying to make the Center as useful for locals as it will be for visitors. In many ways, the Event Center will serve as a civic center.
The Visitors Bureau is planning for the projected deficit. The expected annual return ($25 million in new spending within our community, 191 new jobs and $1,171,000 in new tax revenue) more than justifies the initial expense and the on-going deficit.
How about we spend that money or use the site for other community needs like affordable housing instead?
Like other towns and cities throughout the U.S., our area is challenged to provide housing options that local citizens can afford. How and whether government should be the ones to provide that housing is hotly debated.
The Dare County Tourism Board is a Public Authority, a quasi-governmental unit created through State law to promote overnight visitation to Dare County’s Outer Banks with a particular emphasis on less-than-peak months. Our mission relates to affordable housing, but it’s separate.
The development of an Event Center allows us to stay on task -- promoting tourism to the Outer Banks during less-than-peak months -- while also helping to support a year-round tourism economy. A year-round tourism economy means year-round jobs, higher wages and greater means for citizens to afford housing locally.
A year-round tourism economy also creates a more stable workforce and in doing so provides property owners with attractive prospects for year-round residential rentals (as opposed to partial year rentals which often become short-term rentals instead).
Adding 191 jobs sounds like a good thing normally, but we already struggle with limited workforce. How is this going to help?
By generating new visitation during the traditional shoulder and off-seasons, the Event Center will help to grow and support year-round tourism – year-round tourism means year-round jobs.
Employers can retain employees instead of having to downsize and ramp up so dramatically just for peak months. Year-round jobs provide workforce stability for both the employer and the employee.
The site is beautiful and has great views of the water; how about we just leave it as an open area instead?
Open spaces are great, and they’re abundant on the Outer Banks, but that’s not why the site was purchased by the Tourism Board. We are committed to the public’s continued use and enjoyment of the sound, though, through the development of a boardwalk west of the event site and with preserved water access for kiteboarders, windsurfers, etc.
Even once built, 72% of the site’s street frontage will be unobstructed, preserving terrific open views of the Sound (and comparable to what existed when the Dairy Queen, Blackbeard’s mini-golf and Pamlico Jack’s facilities were in operation).
What’s the schedule moving forward?
So far, the Dare County Commissioners, the Dare County Tourism Board and a Board-appointed Advisory Committee have all offered unanimous support for the Event Center concept as presented. This is an important threshold to cross, but much work remains to move the project from concept to reality.
We anticipate a series of meetings to address the gaps between the building/site rough design and the Town of Nags Head Unified Development Ordinance. As those issues are resolved, we’ll move into a more formal design phase. Other State regulatory agencies will also be involved in the site planning process, particularly with regard to onsite wastewater management.
As mentioned previously, the Tourism Board has a dedicated funding stream for the Event Center and will carefully evaluate the different funding and operational approaches that are available. The project will move from planning and design and into construction. All told, the Event Center project is expected to take at least 3 years to come to fruition but it’s closer than ever been before.
This FAQ is part of a broader effort to share information with the public. All Dare County Tourism Board meetings are open to the public. The Board typically meets on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 9:00am at the Sarah Owens Welcome Center on Roanoke Island. Please direct any questions you may have about the project to EventCenter@outerbanks.org. Thanks for your interest