Tourism Board buys Nags Head interest in Event Site for $2.3 million

By on June 3, 2021

After joining forces with the Dare County Tourism Board more than a decade ago to purchase property that would eventually become the Soundside Event Site, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners on June 2 unanimously approved the $2.3 million sale of its ownership stake back to the county board.

For several years, Nags Head has been seeking to sell its interest in the site. Now – pending a June 7 approval by the Dare County Board of Commissioners – the town will receive payments over the next 10 years beginning with a $600,000 initial payment by the end of this fiscal year.

“Wonderful, good news,” Mayor Ben Cahoon asserted after the vote. Cahoon later told the Voice that the town pursued the sale because it has other things it can do with that money, and that the time was right for the transaction.

“The economy is good, the Visitor’s Bureau is doing well,” he said. “We thought that [the tourism board] probably could spare the resources and buy our interest at this point. So, we were finally able to come to an agreement. It’s taken two or three years to kind of keep it on the front burner to make it happen.”

After the initial payment of $600,000, the town would receive a minimum payment of $100,000 over the next 10 years,” Interim Town Manager Andy Garman told the board during the June 2 meeting. “It could be more, depending on the availability of funds from the Tourism Board.”

The Town of Nags Head partnered with the Tourism Board twice around 2007 on two separate land purchases – one being the former Windmill Point property. At the time, Cahoon said, the tourism board did not have enough funding to purchase the properties and the Nags Head board believed having that kind of space in Nags Head would also benefit the community.

Since then, the town has not had any involvement in subsequent purchases to expand the site, and under an agreement with the Tourism Board, has not financially contributed to improvements at the site. Other than the town’s zoning regulations, sole operation and management of the property also was in the hands of the Tourism Board through the years.

In recent years, the Tourism Board’s Event Site Advisory Group has explored options and conducted an economic feasibility study for developing everything from a convention center to an event center and hotel on the site. So far, none those options have come to fruition, and some have been met with resistance in the community.

The Dare County Tourism Board has also purchased the Dairy Queen property to the south of the site, the adjacent Pamlico Jack’s Soundfront Restaurant, and South Beach Grille, located on the east side of U.S. 158 across from the event site.

Commenting on Nags Head selling its interest in the site, Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles noted that, “As time went on, I think the town had other priorities for the money and requested the Tourism Board purchase [their interest].The Tourism Board wants to be good neighbors…the town made the request and the board felt it could satisfy the request and do so in a way that didn’t prevent it from doing other development.”

There has been at least some disagreement in recent years between the town and Tourism Board. In March of 2020, the Nags Head Board of Commissioners declined a request by the Soundside Event Site Advisory Board to dedicate staff resources to investigate the feasibility of the event site tapping into a nearby sewer system to possibly accommodate a hotel and convention center on the property, as well as to consider reduced parking standards at the site.

“If the tourism board wants to do all those studies, that’s fine,” asserted Commissioner Mike Siers during the meeting when the request was rejected. “But I haven’t seen a citizen in Nags Head who wants a hotel/convention center on that site to where the Town of Nags Head should spend our time, staff and taxpayer money to research something for the tourism bureau.”





  • Bud

    Tourism Board need to be disbanded, all they do is promote continued destruction and adding new ways to destroy our communities.

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 5:51 am
  • Sandman

    Definitely not a convention center and hotel… keep the small town charm as much as possible!! Traffic can already be bad during tourist season and this would be horrible!! Keep big indoor events out of these towns my neighbors!!! We moved here from a large metro area and will do anything possible to maintain the nice atmosphere! We will vote with like minded neighbors to keep this place small and friendly!!

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 8:00 am
  • Right Hook

    Are you kidding me? The greatest need for our businesses to serve our tourists is staffing. The greatest barrier to adequate staffing is affordable living arrangements. The Tourism Board purpose is to support tourism. The millions wasted on this unused ‘Event Site’ could have better served our tourist industry by investing in affordable accommodations for service industry workers. Typical government/bureaucratic waste of money with the goal of glorifying itself with expanding rather than truly serving. At least Nags Head officials have enough sense to realize the money the town invested in this project can be better used for other purposes.

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 8:33 am
  • Mary

    @Bud… Well said! All this area needs is more tourists??? Really??? We don’t have the infrastructure and workers to handle the amount of tourists we already have! How about a much needed public soundside beach for tourists and locals to both enjoy? Quality vs quantity for a change!

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 9:53 am
  • Dethrol

    It is not within the authority or scope of responsibility of government to provide housing for workers. At least not in this country, yet. No less than half a dozen times in the last couple of years, developers, property owners and civic groups have made proposals to build affordable housing in one form or another all over the beach. Instead of harping about the government getting involved in something they have no business doing, how about fighting back against the NIMBY warriors who have tanked every single project with every selfish excuse they can muster.

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 9:57 am
  • Pedro

    We do not need anything related to bringing more people here. I can’t believe it’s even a consideration. We are destroying this place. We need long term housing, desperately. The vacation rental companies spend millions and millions of dollars promoting the Outer Banks every year as it is. They know how to bring people here. Blind Freddy can see that this place is already out of control and soon we’ll start losing tourists because there’s not enough workers to service any industry. If anything we need a reset. Stop building houses that can sleep 20 people! The money needs to be funneled toward apartments for full time residents. It doesn’t have to be an eyesore structure. If the Tourism Bureau wants to build it, I’m sure they would have no trouble at all making money from the investment. It really is time to smarten up…and quickly!

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 11:45 am
  • Mark B

    I worked for a man who sat on the tourism board at the time of the purchase of that property. I’m pretty sure the reasoning for no convention center then was no commercial air port on the beach for the convention attendees to use.
    Having to drive or be driven from either Raleigh or Va. Beach was a hitch for marketing purposes.
    Only one rental car company, and no real shuttle service was another. There was conversation about increased DWI cases as well.
    The thought of an elite resort for those with private planes was all that was actually feasible, but not marketable.
    I hate to say it but that is now a million dollar view. No way the tourism board uses it for affordable housing or a locally affordable community center so kids have someplace to go in the evening.

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 5:58 pm
  • voidless1

    Look on the bright side , the town of Nags Head should now have xtra funds for additinal
    ” Road Flood Sighns”

    Friday, Jun 4 @ 9:11 pm
  • Peachy

    Mark B, the tourism board also owns the old South Beach Grill property between the highways. They could easily build dormitory-style housing for summer workers with parking underneath for events. It’s not a magic bullet, but it could alleviate some pressure on the housing market so permanent residents had a better chance of finding decent housing.

    Tuesday, Jun 8 @ 11:46 am
  • Liz

    Having lived here for nearly 23 years, I have often wondered about the Tourism Board. What is its purpose, what is its “mission?” Is it to bring more people here each year, more commercialization, and damn the consequences? It sure seems that way. Why can’t they support the infrastructure we have and back off of the more, more, more? Our housing, transportation, and employment situation has reached a crisis point, but the Tourism Board keeps on beating that drum, ignoring the opinions of many, many locals. Yes, we rely very heavily on tourism, but, when is enough enough?

    Wednesday, Jun 9 @ 10:07 pm
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