Proposed Event Center in ‘consensus building’ stage

By on October 27, 2022

No timeline yet for construction of Nags Head facility

Overhead view of the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head.

As tourism officials continue to provide public presentations about the proposed Event Center at the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head, the building itself is still at least three years away, with no clear timeline for what happens going forward.

“We don’t have a detailed timeline at this point. We’ve been focused on sharing the concept and building consensus for it,” Lee Nettles, executive director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, said in an email to the Voice.

“My best guess is construction could begin in a couple of years and take a year to complete,” he added, explaining the timeframe is subject to change because of the design, regulatory and permitting work yet to be done which could impact the project.

Nettles, along with Dare County Tourism Board Chair Tim Cafferty, presented the concept for the center at the Oct. 5 meeting of the Duck Town Council.

As noted in that presentation, the “next issues to address” include parking and building size and height with the Town of Nags Head; septic, stormwater and a potential traffic signal with the state; a rough order of magnitude cost, operating deficit and construction funding and financing with the Dare County Tourism Board and the county; and building community consensus.

The Dare County Board of Commissioners heard the first presentation on the Event Center concept and passed a resolution supporting the center concept in August 2021.  Over the past year, Nettles and Cafferty have made other presentations to the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, Leadership OBX, Outer Banks Association of REALTORS®, Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners, Kitty Hawk Town Council, Southern Shores Town Council and also held a public meeting. Nettles said that Hatteras Island presentations are currently being planned.

The proposed building is slated to be about the size of Publix in Kill Devil Hills, and the project includes a boardwalk along the sound. The center’s 48,275 square feet would include a 26,000-square-foot event hall with collapsible walls to facilitate smaller or larger events; a 2,800-square-foot training kitchen; a 1,500-square-foot meeting room; and a lobby, back of the house area, restrooms and a hall totaling 17,975 square feet.

Schematics also show the possible uses of the event hall to include one to three basketball courts with retractable bleachers, three to nine pickleball courts, two to four volleyball courts, gymnastics or wrestling space. The center could facilitate gatherings of 300 to 2,500 people. Other expected uses include galas, speaker events, sporting events, smaller trade shows and a culinary institute “for the industry that dominates locally—restaurants,” Cafferty said at the Duck Town Council meeting.

The center is projected to generate 191 new jobs, including nine full-time equivalent jobs, and $25,250,000 in new spending, according to the presentation. It’s expected to operate at a deficit of about $310,000.

According to tourism officials, the facility would help support more year-round tourism and sustain more year-round jobs. Tourism employs one-third of Dare County’s residents, and about 70% of the county’s annual occupancy taxes are collected in just three months of the year—June, July and August.

The center would “flatten that curve” and increase out-of-town groups’ visitation to the area from October through March, Nettles said.

“The multi-million-dollar return justifies the anticipated operating deficit,” Dare commissioners wrote in their resolution supporting the center, noting the projected $25 million in new spending and nearly $1.2 million in tax revenue by its fifth year.

During the process of discussing and planning for a multi-use facility, a convention center concept was quickly taken off the table because of size requirements as well as the expectation of a hotel being attached and the distance from the closest major airport.

“Maintaining green space was and is a priority for the Tourism Board,” Nettles said in an email explaining why a hotel was not pursued. A hotel would have eliminated green space, greatly increased the septic requirements, hotel deals often require a subsidy and the Outer Banks Hotel/Motel Association—”one of our main stakeholder groups”—was opposed to it, he added.

The Town of Duck has a council member on the Tourism Board, but no council resolution supporting the Event Center concept has been discussed or planned, according to Duck Mayor Don Kingston.

“I personally have no opinion at this time on the proposal,” he said in an email, adding that the council considered the presentation “a status update.”






  • olin hardy

    This is great for Hatteras!

    Thursday, Oct 27 @ 7:23 pm
  • John

    Who will work there?
    Most restaurants can’t find help due to cost of living. A lot of restaurants only open 5 days a week due to staffing.
    They want to draw more people in the off season! Wow……. Good luck Nags Head

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 7:18 am
  • Right Hook

    The Visitor Bureau is to support tourism. One of the greatest needs of our tourism industry is workers – whose greatest need is affordable housing. The costs of the event center could go a long way in meeting the urgent need of affordable housing – w/out running a $300,000 deficit.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 8:16 am
  • m

    The County doesn’t need year round tourist or anymore at all for that matter! No infrastructure, no medical, no workforce, etc. OBX needs any opportunity to take a breath in the Winter months. The Powers that be are ruining our little slice of heaven with no regard for those the live here. The income generated, plus the deficit will never cover the cost to tax payers to continue to bring in so many people. WE DON’T WANT TO BE A MYTLE BEACH!

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 8:35 am
  • Dare County is a cruise ship

    I really can’t stand these republican commissioners and the grubby money fingers they have. Bunch of old white men who think they know what’s best for the coming generations. Yet their ambition is to line their own pockets which really isn’t looking out for others at all.

    If you want a healthy off season, you should bolster the local population so they have the funds to support the businesses that are here and open in the off season. But nah, lets just drag more tourists to the area while the underbelly of Dare county crumbles at the expense of tourism pricing on gas, groceries, clothing, rent, etc.

    I’m gonna go vote today, and I’m gonna vote against every incumbent in office. Getting close to moving away from this sinking cruise ship.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 8:42 am
  • Lisa

    This all sounds nice. But we don’t use the Soundside Center area enough now to justify the costs of this new idea. 191 new jobs? When every store around has help wanted signs up looking for help. I think much more needs to be done before an investment like this starts to take place.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 9:43 am
  • surf123

    Fingers crossed that Nags Head will not bend on any of the zoning rules (parking, building size and building height). Looking at the wording it is easy to see they want special exceptions for this project. Nags Head cannot give one inch. They bought the land and with it all of the rules and regulations about how it can used.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 11:44 am
  • Just fyi

    Just to note FTE ( fill time EQUIVALENT) is not necessarily 191 full time jobs with benefits, etc.
    For example, two part-time jobs can equal 1FTE —as well bundling seasonal or event-specific gigs to add up to an FTE.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 1:51 pm
  • Jay

    It’s too bad this project is not included on the current election ballot. I would like to see if Dare County voters would approve or reject this Event Center.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 1:55 pm
  • resident

    Community consensus? It appears that you do not care what this community wants or needs. We do not want or need year- round tourism. You previously said that the view of sound would not be blocked, So the height should have already been established.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 2:26 pm
  • Tiny

    Two concepts jump out at me:

    Operating deficit – Who pays this? The tourism board, until they can’t and pawn it off on local government?

    Consensus – Locals don’t want this, so we need to convince them that they do.

    Friday, Oct 28 @ 7:39 pm
  • Rich

    OK with me as long as we make sure we can’t see the users chewing their food and stop them from eventually using the pools in the area.

    Saturday, Oct 29 @ 7:19 am
  • Chris

    Every person on this beach who is a business owner, and all the commissioner’s all the heads of county municipalities,YOU BETTER HAVE A COMING TO JESUS MEETING WITH EACH OTHER . Yall have priced yourselves out of the market. Half the work force has moved away it won’t be long before the other half leaves too. No rentals to be found, all restaurants prices are the highest ever and all blue collar workers are being paid half of what they should really should make. This beach is getting ready to impload on its self. Soon there’s only going to be a bunch of rich snobby ass people and that’s it. Welcome to your new style beach. Oh and by the way, do you really think you can stop STAN WHITE from building the event center. Not!!!!!!!! They will pass it . One more thing we don’t need . Hope I’m still around to see the the demise of all these jackasses that made their money off our sweat,as they throw all of us to the curb now.

    Saturday, Oct 29 @ 2:21 pm
  • Charles

    Wonder how many houses could have fit in this space ?

    Sunday, Oct 30 @ 11:00 am
  • charlie

    Time to think outside of the box… First-$310,000 yearly deficit?…No thanks… Second-The Rogalla museum would fit in there nicely..Third-We need a soundside beach…Fourth-kayak, windsurfing, etc access…
    Nobody wants a big event site. You can’t justify it to the people.. So–Take the land and make it available for things the people want…
    ps…don’t believe me?..Survey the people…

    Monday, Oct 31 @ 10:52 am