Event center plan presented at public meeting

By on June 6, 2022

Nettles describes Nags Head site as ‘civic center’ concept

From left, Dare County Tourism Board Chair Tim Cafferty and Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles.

About 60 people gathered for a June 6 public meeting in the Keeper’s Galley Building at Haven on the Banks to hear the details of the proposed $18 million event center that is planned for the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

The center, which would be located in the northeast corner of the site, would be approximately 48,000 square feet in size and include an event hall, meeting room, a catering and training kitchen and a lobby. A boardwalk is also being constructed along the soundside as part of the project.

Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lee Nettles, along with Dare County Tourism Board Chair Tim Cafferty, made the presentation that lasted about an hour. The re-imagined conceptual plan comes after years of considering potential development options at the event site – including at one point, a hotel and convention center which are no longer being considered.

The site currently hosts a number of popular events, including the Outer Banks Seafood Festival, but it is largely seen as underutilized.

Nettles told the attendees that he envisions the center will have more of a civic center type feel than event center and would be roughly the same size as the Publix market in Kill Devil Hills. The facility would have the capability of housing three basketball courts, and would also be able to host pickleball, volleyball, indoor soccer, wrestling, gymnastics and cheerleading events as well as concerts, trade shows and other events.

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

“The reason that the Tourism Board exists is for the support of year-round tourism, and this building is intended to address that,” Nettles pointed out.

With a 2,800-square-foot training and test kitchen, Cafferty said officials also envision that the center could potentially serve as a culinary training center. Features such as air walls that could be collapsed and moved around to accommodate specific events would make the space a versatile one.

Nettles, who noted during the presentation that the target crowd size for events is between 300 and 2,500 people, added that he sees the center as an extension of the Dare County Parks and Rec facilities.

Cafferty said the event center is expected to generate more than 14,000 new room nights annually, along with $1.71 million in new tax revenue for Dare County. As for jobs, he estimated that it will create a total of 191 new jobs, with 9 full-time positions at the event center itself. The large majority of new jobs, Nettles explained, would in businesses that support the event center, such as linen companies and other supply-type companies and jobs created as a result of an increase in tourism from the event center.

The plan still has several hurdles to clear to move closer to reality — 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.

“I think if everything worked out great, we’re still three years from anything coming out of the ground,” Nettles said in regard to a construction timeline.





  • Grandyguy

    Do we really need year round tourism🤔

    Monday, Jun 6 @ 6:27 pm
  • Blake

    We cant support year round tourism.

    Monday, Jun 6 @ 6:29 pm
  • Simple Math

    I have mixed feeling on this project. I feel we have more than enough visitors to support our local economy and have about reached our limits of infrastructure, services, and transportation to support them. However, I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a venue in the area to support events. So I don’t have a really strong position on whether or not it should proceed.

    But when I’m presented with the statement that this venture is estimated to create 191 jobs, I’d really like to see the supporting work behind that estimate. I must say that is quite a precise number, 191.

    At last count that I’m aware of, The Town of Nags Head Municipality had about 120 – 140 employees (and there are seasonal positions that need to be considered also). That would include Public Safety (Police and Fire), Public Works (Sanitation, General Maintenance, Water Distribution, Storm Water, Streets, Maintaining Beach Accesses, Beach Safety) Administration (Finance, Tax Collection, Planning and Development, Inspections), Etc.

    I really have a hard time believing that this facility would add more “jobs” (however they are defining them) than are currently needed for the entire Town that it will be built in. And that makes me wonder how much of the rest of the argument justifying and explaining the project is valid.

    Monday, Jun 6 @ 6:47 pm
  • Freenusa

    The answer is, we have year round tourism now. The question is, do we need more year round tourism? I vote no but the 🤑 say go. Sad but true. I believe Mr Nettles must be confused. I started visiting NagsHead, in 1967. It was back then, that tourism was not year round. The beach basically shut down. Gradually it moved to 3/4 year tourism and since 2020, it has been full on year round. So Mr Nettles wants to pack our area 12 months year. Now the question should be, Is year round tourism sustainable? I vote no but the 🤑 say go.

    Monday, Jun 6 @ 10:02 pm
  • Rosie

    Ugh, please no!!! Where is it written that every open space must be paved and developed? Hasn’t everyone who lives here just had enough??? And I have to agree with Simple Math about the “jobs”. Full time jobs with benefits or part time, low-paying, only when events are scheduled jobs? The whole thing makes me sad.

    Monday, Jun 6 @ 10:32 pm
  • Glenn

    Please don’t forget to build NHL and NBA arenas as well…let’s get more of those winter time crowds down here!

    Tuesday, Jun 7 @ 7:22 am
  • Commentator

    This is a well thought out plan, and positive use of this site.

    Tuesday, Jun 7 @ 10:08 am
  • Joan mcmin

    Dare county can’t stand vacant land. Just leave the site as is. Culinary training, take it to another place.

    Tuesday, Jun 7 @ 10:41 am
  • Steven

    We use to have pleasant visitors that fished and enjoyed the area, it was beautiful and our economy strong. Now the demographic has changed to the elitist and selfish crowd that are not interested in the area or it’s people. These folks are awful to deal with, cater to or serve.

    Tuesday, Jun 7 @ 12:46 pm
  • resident

    Simple math and Rosie are correct. The Tourist bureau does not talk about the wastewater and traffic conditions. The traffic is a safety hazard in this area as seen when we have other events in this area. It is one thing to have The Seafood festival , car shows, etc which happen occasionaly but to have this on a continuous basis is another. The conditions are dangerous as you have no traffic light , event goers crossing the street , and generally backed up traffic. We already have traffic in the northern section with traffic trying to access Duck and Corolla. Do we need to have the southern section of Nags Head congested also? From the research I have done this facility would operate at a loss for 3 to 5 years. Mr. Nettles has his own agenda and it is conflicting with what the residents of this area want and need. He should be focusing on sustainable tourism and stop with the year round tourist campaign .When the bridges were closed due to the early days of the pandemic , The Tourist Bureau spent additional money from their advertising budget to promote tourism. This is public knowledge in their financial statements. Mr. Nettles reminds me of the commissioners that were in the pockets of the real estate companies, and restaurant and hotel owners and you see how that went with the mini hotels.

    Tuesday, Jun 7 @ 3:02 pm
  • C A

    I don’t understand the whole culinary training component of this event center planning.

    The new College of the Albemarle opened recently, why isn’t this brought under the umbrella of the school?

    Back in the day, the areas nicer restaurants hired you and you worked your way up learning all the positions, and becoming proficient, and accomplished.

    Should your interests remain after a season, you’d return and become a cook, then perhaps a Chef after working with one, and being groomed for it.

    This practice is still commonplace in the restaurant business, as many other businesses here on the Outer Banks.

    The construction industry is a great example of this The carpenter’s helper one day is then running his own outfit, and business, or is recognized within the industry and elevated up the line with peer respect for his work.

    There was never a training facility for such a thing. There are accredited culinary institutions out there already.

    Are we demanding a more refined cuisine for our mature palates now? Or is this 2800sq ft training kitchen facility for general use in catering events at the site?

    Wednesday, Jun 8 @ 1:26 am
  • obxboxer

    I hate this!!!!!!!!!! As a life long local, I enjoy driving by that open area and actually seeing NO BUIDLINGS. I think it isn’t under utilized. The mini traveling amusement park comes, the car shows are there, seafood fest etc… Just offer more craft show things or open air concerts etc.

    PLEASE don’t pave anything else and don’t build year round structures. I think these people just see missed out money for their pockets, not opportunities for the residents or visitors. This makes me mad and sad. Most of my family has moved away from here in the last 10 years because of these types of things, along with out of towners buying up all the houses and land and changing the dynamics of this wonderful place. At my job I am the only person whose lived here their entire life. Every one of my coworkers are transplants. And that is ok but if you moved here because you love this place then preserve it not change it.

    Wednesday, Jun 8 @ 10:12 am
  • Rob

    You need to do some serious thinking about sewage while you can still reach the potable water table. The sound there is already so contaminated you can’t eat the fish and mollusks that live there. Then there’s the flooding there every 5 to 10 years when a storm passes by. My suggestion, since the hills are no longer there, put it on Jockey’s Ridge. Higher ground there (barely).

    Wednesday, Jun 8 @ 3:40 pm
  • Lisa

    That area is only used 3, 4, 5 times a year now for events. So if we can’t make use of it as an outside event area, it would seem this kind of money for the buidings, parking really can’t be justified. Usually you build out of need. We rarely use it, so what is the need? MOre year round tourism?

    Friday, Jun 10 @ 2:08 pm
  • Kit

    From the Voice article:

    “The reason that the Tourism Board exists is for the support of year-round tourism, and this building is intended to address that,” Nettles pointed out.

    The real reason is to get MONEY! Will the taxpayers be asked to pay for the project? You can bet your bippy we will! We don’t need the Tourism Board, period… They have ruined our way of life on the Outer Banks!

    Saturday, Jun 11 @ 11:42 am
  • Leigh Sudbrink

    What about adding indoor tennis courts. I hear a hurricane took out an indoor facility many years ago. During periods of cold and rain the only options for indoor play are in Pine Island and Corolla. Tennis is enjoyed by students, residents and tourists. Tennis courts can be taped to also offer pickle ball courts. Please do not only address the popularity of pickle ball. The tennis community wants to be heard.

    Thursday, Jun 16 @ 5:43 pm