Norfolk Casino Moving Forward After City Lends Stadium for Construction Staging

Posted on: December 28, 2022, 11:41h. 

Last updated on: December 28, 2022, 12:51h.

The delayed Norfolk casino project is finally moving forward. That’s after developers and local officials reached a deal allowing the parking lot at the city’s Harbor Park minor league baseball stadium to be utilized during construction of the gaming resort.

Norfolk casino HeadWaters Pamunkey Virginia gambling
An aerial rendering of the envisioned HeadWaters Resort & Casino in Norfolk. The Virginia casino development has moved slowly since being authorized by local voters in November 2022. (Image: Pamunkey Indian Tribe)

The Pamunkey Indian Tribe, one of seven federally recognized tribes in Virginia, is working with billionaire tribal gaming veteran Jon Yarbrough to build a $500 million casino resort on the banks of the Elizabeth River. More than two years after local voters in Norfolk signed off on the casino blueprint known as HeadWaters Resort & Casino, little progress has been made.

However, the odds of HeadWaters soon breaking ground have shortened. That’s after the Norfolk City Council agreed to allow Harbor Park’s parking lots to serve as staging areas for construction of a temporary casino and the permanent resort. The lease agreement resolves a major hurdle for the tribe and Yarbrough in determining where to stage the project’s construction equipment and supplies.

Location Concern Addressed

Virginia’s gaming law allows casino developers to open temporary gaming facilities during construction of the permanent resorts. The interim casinos are only permissible at the same mailing address as where their permanent casinos will one day operate.

For the land-strapped HeadWaters project, which is to be built on 13.5 acres of vacant land adjacent to Harbor Park between the Elizabeth River and Park Avenue, the legal condition threatened the developers’ ability to open an interim casino amid a construction zone.

HeadWaters initially planned to open its temporary casino inside Harbor Park in what was, before the pandemic, a restaurant and fitness center. After legal concerns were raised that the baseball park is located at 150 Park Avenue and HeadWaters’ permanent address will be 200 Park Avenue, developers folded on those plans.

The tribe and Yarbrough have since opted to build a temporary structure closest to Park Avenue at Interstate 264 for the interim casino. The city has provisionally agreed to sell the 13.5 acres of land, which is primarily paved parking lots serving the baseball park, to HeadWaters once its full resort plan is finalized and the Virginia Lottery Board approves the development.

In the meantime, the Norfolk City Council had to agree to lease Harbor Park’s parking lots to the casino developers for the temporary facility. The provisional gaming space is critical to the project’s overall development.

Temporary Details Slim

HeadWaters hasn’t revealed many specifics about its upcoming temporary casino. Project spokesperson Jay Smith told recently that both slot machines and table games will be offered. Gaining the city’s approval for the interim space, however, is a major development.

Pursuant to the direction we received from City Council in July, the tribe committed to delivering a site plan on the temporary casino. The tribe is now working diligently with the city on the permanent site plan and land conveyance, which in turn will allow us to begin construction,” Smith explained.

“The tribe is excited and ready to start building,” Smith concluded.