Dare Board backs event center on Soundside site

By on August 2, 2021

Site of the proposed 48,000-sq-foot event center (in blue).

After years of exploring potential development options at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head, the Dare County Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 2 meeting unanimously threw its support behind the concept of a $17.6 million, 48,000-square-foot event center. The board’s green light follows last month’s endorsement of the project by the Dare County Tourism Board and its Event Site Advisory Committee.

The conceptual plan includes a 48,000-square-foot center that consists of a 26,000 square-foot event hall, a 1,500 square-foot meeting room and a 2,800-square foot catering and learning kitchen. The building, which is projected to be 45 feet in height, would be roughly the same size square footage as the Publix market when completed.

“The Event Center is an enormous project and getting it built has required and will require an extensive process,” Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles told the commissioners at the meeting. “Think of it as a boulder. It only gets moved forward if all of us – the Tourism Board, the county, the Town of Nags Head and the community at large are all pushing the same boulder and in the same direction.”

The plan still has several hurdles to clear as it becomes more concrete — including requiring the Nags Head Board of Commissioners to approve amendments or variances to its zoning ordinance related to height limits and parking. It will also require state permits related to wastewater.

“The advisory committee looked at different sports and what could fit in that space,” Nettles said. “It could accommodate three basketball courts or one court with retractable bleachers for spectators in the championship-style format. Realistically though, the size and space that we have is more likely to appeal to the smaller footprint sports like pickleball, wrestling, gymnastics, cheerleading.”

Nettles said tourism officials see the space as an extension of the facilities currently available through the Dare County Parks and Recreation Department.

“The additional recreation space gives locals and visitors more opportunities than currently exist,” he noted while acknowledging that the center will not compete with dedicated sports facilities that are in other markets, which, he added, are typically three times the size of what’s being proposed at the site.

When it comes to concerts banquets, trade shows, Nettles said the event center will be able to host groups of between 300 and 2,500 people. “This facility has the potential to attract national concerts to our area throughout the year,” he asserted.

“You probably noticed that I haven’t called this this building a convention center,” Nettles added. “We’re realistic about the limitations of the site and our market. We aren’t Virginia Beach, we aren’t Myrtle Beach, and we don’t want to be.” He added that popular events like Taste of the Beach and the Wedding Expo have outgrown the site’s existing spaces. Other groups, like the Outer Banks Homebuilders, haven’t been able to host their events because the facilities can’t handle it.

The Tourism Board and Advisory Board did not support a hotel on the site for a number of reasons, he explained, including the Outer Banks Hotel and Motel Association’s opposition to it. He also said a hotel on the site would represent 80 percent of the wastewater capacity, would reduce the event lawn area and would struggle with being on the west side of U.S. 158. He also said a private investor would likely expect some type of public subsidy.

At the conclusion of Nettles’ presentation, a number of commissioners extended kudos to Nettles and his team for the concept.

“I’ve been sensitive to the public perception of this,” said Commissioner Danny Couch. “And the public, based on what I’m seeing, is not going to be for anything large. I think this is manageable. I’m liking what I’m seeing.”

“I think it’s a good visionary plan,” added Commissioner Ervin Bateman. “But we have to have complete cooperation from the Town of Nags Head in order to make all those things happen. I think they’ll be very cooperative. And that’s exciting.”





  • Travis

    I haven’t been the biggest fan of this project , but I won’t lie: Lee’s comment about attracting national concerts to the area gave me a little jolt of the feel-good.

    Monday, Aug 2 @ 6:55 pm
  • charlie

    the question which is not addresses is has the community at large had any say in all of this…. ?
    This is $17 million on top of an unknown $$$ figure already spent to get the properties….Does the community support all this spending and where is the benefit to the average citizen of Dare County…?

    Questions which should be answered before any more $$$ are spent…

    Monday, Aug 2 @ 7:16 pm
  • Czarina

    And where will the employees live? Outer Banks has ALWAYS had a problem with employees finding a place to live. That is NOT a COVID issue,

    Monday, Aug 2 @ 9:20 pm
  • Ruthless

    National concert. 2500 person capacity. Anybody see a disconnect here?

    Monday, Aug 2 @ 10:48 pm
  • Lucy Power

    My first thought is how does the county expect to staff said venue.
    My second thought is WOW, how many affordable housing units, neighborhoods created for families to live and work and become a part of Dare County’s FUTURE, could be built for 17 million? Progress requires people and our current situation is the 25-50 age group cannot work here or establish a home because there is NOWHERE TO LIVE. Retirees with money are not going to be the ones that make up the staff.
    Geez, talk about putting the cart before Catherine horse.

    Monday, Aug 2 @ 11:24 pm
  • Jeff Walker

    Good luck convincing “national tours” to drive several hours out of their way from larger markets.

    Tuesday, Aug 3 @ 8:18 am
  • bchgrl

    Is this the right time for this? The Outer Banks is experiencing extreme growing pains with visitation outpacing our resources. OBX businesses are struggling. There are not enough employees because there is not enough affordable housing. Lifeguard staffs are shorthanded. Restaurants are not open seven days a week because they have too few employees. Teachers, nurses and doctors can’t find affordable housing! Who is going to work at this event center? Where are they going to live? Are we really going to cater to pickleball and wrestling tournaments while our community is struggling with many more important issues? Tourism money should be spent on making sure that our visitors are being well taken care of, and that includes having enough lifeguards, house cleaners and workers of every sort — and that starts with affordable housing.

    Tuesday, Aug 3 @ 10:02 am
  • hightider

    Yeah right…maybe they can find the people who decided Roanoke Rapids in Halifax County was going to be the next Branson MO. The relative inaccessabilty is what makes the OBX attractive and dooms a convention center. I grew up here but went to Raleigh for HS and no one would go to the OBX because of the drive – everyone went to Myrtle Beach. So people are coming to this venue either from VA Beach, through Elizabeth City or across the Alligator River. Oh wait! I totally forgot about the major airport in Dare where jumbo jets can bring in the visitors. (Snarky laugh.)

    Tuesday, Aug 3 @ 12:33 pm
  • resident

    commissioner meetings regarding this topic need to be in the evening so that locals can be there and not in the morning when we are at work.

    Tuesday, Aug 3 @ 2:11 pm
  • Sean

    What a joke! Board of fools with no common sense

    Thursday, Aug 5 @ 10:49 am
  • Joan

    The County is literally swimming in Capital Improvement money from the Real Estate Transfer Tax and the Real Estate sales pace. This 1% transfer tax income privilege our County has can only be spent on Capital Improvements (Buildings etc.). The Tourism Bureau is swimming in prepared meals and “heads in beds revenue”, they can spend it on anything that keeps visitation solid. If both organizations build it, the leaders and politicians have something tangible to pat themselves on the back forever. This wins votes and accolades. Use does not matter, it will be used, we lack facilities, and think of the opportunities to put plaques on them to thank the leaders and politicians. Politicians and leaders also get votes and win elections by holding forums, talking about workforce shortages and housing issues. Just talking about it makes them appear sensitive to the issue. They never will do anything because the answers will not get them re-elected, the answers will not be immediately tangible. This is why this building plan exists, and workforce/housing solutions do not.

    Thursday, Aug 5 @ 11:09 am
  • Susie

    My issue is we don’t use what is there for events now. To put this money into an event center, there needs to be significant planning on how to use it.

    Tuesday, Aug 17 @ 5:19 pm