Tourism committee discusses future of Event Site

By on December 4, 2019

Soundside Event Site

Members of the Dare County Tourism Board’s Event Center Advisory Committee held their inaugural meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3 to discuss potential plans for the future development of the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

The meeting came six weeks after the Tourism Board greenlighted the $3.1 million purchase of popular local restaurant Pamlico Jack’s, adjoining the Soundside property, as part of the site’s expansion efforts. The existing event site, which hosts such popular events as the Outer Banks Seafood Festival, is largely regarded as underutilized.

The eight-member committee includes Lee Nettles, the executive director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau; Myra Ladd-Bone, Tourism Board and Chamber of Commerce Board member; Nags Head Commissioner and Tourism Board Member Webb Fuller; Dare County Commissioner Rob Ross; Hotel/Motel Association representative Tonia Cohen; Nags Head Mayor and architect Ben Cahoon; longtime Outer Banks civic leader and former Tourism Board Chair Ralph Buxton; and event host and Bearded Face Productions owner Mike Dianna.

Tuesday’s two-hour meeting saw some occasional tension as members debated the feasibility of the project given restrictive Nags Head town ordinances.

There are currently three proposed options under review by the committee that had been presented to the Tourism Board by a consultant. All three proposals include a 30,000 square foot event venue, and two of them propose a 200-room hotel and 5,400-square-foot ballroom. Only the third option utilizes the Pamlico Jack’s property as part of the hotel or for parking.

The Tourism Board hopes the development of the site will help develop a “year-round tourism economy that enhances the quality of life” for local residents by “emphasizing less-than-peak season visitation,” but without “unduly competing with local businesses,” Nettles said. “The challenge now,” he continued, “is to figure out how to connect all the property.”

The committee discussed short- and long-term uses of the site, the former of which involved using Pamlico Jack’s as a temporary event space, as the property already has parking and septic.

Long-term goals discussed included pursuing development partners (such as retail businesses), conducting an engineering survey to begin to plan septic fields, and writing up a comprehensive financial plan.

Things took a bit of a turn halfway through the meeting when Cahoon and Fuller both voiced strong concerns over the proposed event center’s compliance with Nags Head ordinances. “I don’t want to go for our long vision without doing our due diligence,” Fuller said.

A major concern for several committee members was the First Flight Adventure Park, a rope course that lies on the same property as the now-closed Dairy Queen. The Adventure Park renewed its five-year lease last year and has the option to renew it again twice. Fuller, in particular, was worried the business could “effectively divide” the property and interfere with the proposed hotel and event center.

For his part, Nettles said he “doesn’t see [the rope course] as insurmountable,” and pointed out that the course itself is over wetlands, where buildings cannot be erected.

Some committee members also tried to take a step back and re-imagine the site.

“We need to think about this as a blank canvas,” Ladd-Bone said. “We have to pretend nothing is on the property, then ask, ‘What are we going to do with this?’ and then work around our limitations.”

Commissioner Ross agreed, saying the group needed to focus on the long-term vision. “This has the potential to be the crown jewel of Dare County,” he said.

Nettles acknowledged potential difficulties, but also pointed out that such a multi-use space was unprecedented in Nags Head, and perhaps in Dare County. There is no blueprint for the committee to follow, he said.

Following the discussion of ordinances, the committee agreed to commission an engineering survey of the property to get a better sense of the restrictions related to the site in areas such as septic and parking. They then adjourned until January or early February to give time for the survey to be completed.


  • Nh resident

    I sort of like the green space. Why clutter the natural beauty. Not sure we need more off season tourism when we cant fill the jobs needed to service the visitors.

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 6:40 am
  • surf123

    Of course the Event Center Advisory Committee has no citizens on it and all of these meetings are just for show. They will build a hotel and we will pay for it with money that should go to beach nourishment. Every penny that the tourism board gets should be for sand as replenishment is a never ending process. We do not need anymore visitors as those who do come are too many and cause too many traffic problem as well as over use the resources.

    I hope Nags Head holds strong and keeps the project in check. Based on keeping the zoning regulations in place that effectively limit house size there is hope.

    The tourism board does not exist for the citizens of the county. They exist for own purposes and have no regard for us.

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 8:33 am
  • Sally Berra

    As a resident of Nags Head, I object to the construction of a hotel and ballroom on the sound-front site. There are many questions and unknowns for such a project. Is there a real need for it? Is there a history of convention groups looking to come here or is it simply a dream of the Tourism Committee? Nags Head and all the rest of the Outer Banks have few or none of the attractions that usually attract a convention. The ease of getting here is nonexistent. We have few roads; the ones that we do have are narrow and can be dangerous. We would need construction of new, wide, well-lit roads which would lead to increased traffic. The restaurants near the proposed site are few. Building more would greatly change the character of the area. As it is, each year a number of restaurants go out of business. We have no entertainment for the conventioneers – gentlemen’s clubs, a wide range of dining options, evening entertainment. We are in bed by ten o’clock. Yes, we could build and supply these things, but then we would not be Nags Head; we would become Virginia Beach. The Tourism Committee now is stuck with a large area and a need to do something with it. I hope they will do so looking to preserve the uniqueness of the Outer Banks and Nags Head.

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 12:01 pm
  • Karen DelVacchio

    When will there be public hearings about this? I think that the residents in Nags Head need to have a voice in what’s being built. I totally opposed a 200 room Hotel. I am aghast at the idea that you are taking some natural beautiful space and putting big chunky blocks of buildings there. And personally, I don’t want any more tourism than what we already have. I like the small family event type of houses. I don’t want some Megaplex being built in my backyard!

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 3:38 pm
  • Greg Fury

    “… year-round tourism economy that enhances the quality of life for local residents”

    I don’t believe that is their goal. It’s more like “to increase the quantity of dollars in a few folks pockets”

    Is this really what the community wants?

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 4:36 pm
  • Forbes Kennedy

    “Year-round tourism”–Sure, lots of business groups will want to travel to Nags Head in November or February for a conference. Real wild place to visit in the cold weather.

    After vacationing in the OBX for 25 years, it is this type of “forward” thinking that convinced my missus and I to buy our retirement home in Oak Island. It is tragic that such unsophisticated thinkers as those on this one-sided board float such hare-brained ideas. It is patently obvious what this will become: a huge white elephant to sit, used around half a year at most, and empty the rest of the time.

    Dream on, folks. Build it and they will come!

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 7:02 pm
  • 30 yr NH resident

    Where will the people come from to work at the ” convention center “? 200 room hotel? Why? The public needs to be heard on this debacle.

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 9:04 pm
  • Mick Jernigan

    As a Maryland resident who has for more than 30 years driven past much closer event-venue meccas such as Ocean City, Maryland and Virginia Beach, Virginia to get to the relative peace of the Outer Banks, it would be very disappointing for Dare County to try to be another Ocean City, Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach. Let those other destinations compete with one another for this kind of venue and tourist business.

    Wednesday, Dec 4 @ 10:18 pm
  • Tina Jernigan

    Nags Head already has too many tourist. The residents/property owners enjoy their winter breaks from the annual summer invasions. A 200 room hotel, grand ballroom and another event venue will completely change the landscape of Nags Head and the quality of life for those who try to live there year round. The roads leading to Nags Head already cannot handle seasonal traffic. The closest airport is two hours away. The water table in Nags Head is already high. Flooding has been a constant problem (especially for South Nags Head.) More concrete, buildings, cars, parking lots will only make that situation worse. We need more grass and less development.

    Thursday, Dec 5 @ 5:36 am
  • DrRobbob

    Fellow Citizens of Dare County:

    The representation of the Tourism committee over represents the business and real estate interests at the expensive of a collective notions of what citizens want in Dare County development-wise. Perhaps, there ought to be a Citizens Review Board to develop it own recommendations OUTSIDE the purview of the Tourism Board. Have the two Boards collaborate and compete so a multiplicity of ideas come to the forefront. Engineering studies are needed to ascertain what and if something can be constructed that does not increase traffic (there is now a choke point in front of the site during events), sewage, storm water run off,……. Most importantly, there needs to be a statement of Dare County values re: what should be built (if anything) and how it fits into the fiber and fabric of Dare County. There is one thing that I think most citizens of Dare do not want is the “Ocean Cityization” of Dare with its large hotels and accompanying intended and most unintended consequences.

    Respectfully submitted for Dare County Citizens consideration.

    Thursday, Dec 5 @ 5:43 am
  • Debbie Remaley

    How many people do you want to cram into the Outer Banks? Be honest and admit it’s all about the almighty dollar. The traffic is terrible, and now we also have to worry about flooding from the rain, in addition to ocean and sound side flooding. Go ahead and put in curb and gutter and central sewage. Turn us into almost every other developed beach town and take away everything that makes this place special.

    Thursday, Dec 5 @ 8:28 am
  • sandflea

    So, all of the above people thinks its a terrible idea to build a white elephant. Like some said, where are you going to get the people to work at it? You can’t get help down here as it is; especially good help. AND, where are you going to house them? Since most everybody thinks its a bad idea, the board will most likely move ahead with their pet project. My opinion is that these board members aren’t paid to think.

    Thursday, Dec 5 @ 9:59 am
  • LCC

    Well why don’t we wait for K-Mart to close and make that an indoor event space? Parking, already built, in a good spot. Or is it just the Nags Head Show? The only problem I see with the event site is the parking issue and lack of restroom facilities and since they bought a parking lot then problem solved. Build a bathroom and leave the green green.

    No convention would come here – as stated above we do not have workforce or amenities that would make this place attractive for a real convention. Has anyone on the committee been to a convention – they take place in cities with airports and interstate highways! I’d like to see some numbers for the Seafood Festival or Taste of the Beach reported? Are they that sold out that they need more space? Are we turning events away and losing out on something? Has there been interest expressed to hold a convention here and if so who was it? Did the research company tell them how many conventions a year it will take to make the ROI work? The research company that says put up a hotel seems a little off – like they said what the tourism board wanted to hear. Real research should show the OBX as too small, too difficult to travel to and our cost of living prevents a solid workforce from being here and available year round – a job in an empty hotel won’t change the cost of living, housing shortage, low wages. It’s economics….

    Thursday, Dec 5 @ 2:26 pm
  • surf123

    Government thinks it knows better than anyone else when it comes to business when in actuality they are the least qualified to make any business decisions. It is easy to make bad decisions when you are sending ng someone else’s (taxpayers) money. The tourism board has acquired the land with the intent of a convention center and hired consultants to tell them it will work. The next move will be spend our (taxpayers) money to hire a company to build it in some sort of public/private partnership for which all of the risk is on the public side of the deal. The private entity will have little to no risk if it fails because the public entity will cover their losses should it fail or not meet expectations. The private entity cannot lose and the public entity is on the hook for the whole thing.

    The reality the government does not want to face is that if such a project had an excellent chance of succeeding it would have already been built by a private entity.

    Thursday, Dec 5 @ 4:13 pm
  • Suzanne Mizelle

    Having grown up on the beach, hearing all of this makes me sick. Sounds like the circus moved into town and never left.

    Thursday, Dec 5 @ 5:41 pm
  • CorollaCat

    Everybody calm down.

    Friday, Dec 6 @ 12:53 am
  • Jewel Ahmed

    Thank you for sharing.

    Saturday, Dec 7 @ 4:07 am