HeadWaters Making Pitch For Temporary Virginia Casino Spot At Norfolk’s Harbor Park

Written By Darren Cooper on March 25, 2022
Norfolk Harbor Park Should Expect Temporary Casino Spot After HeadWaters Pitches

HeadWaters Resort and Casino operators want to take their first swing at the Hampton Roads market and are looking to set up a temporary location at Harbor Park in Norfolk.

Harbor Park is home to the Triple-A baseball Norfolk Tides, a boxing center, and the Hits At The Park restaurant on the first base side.

While the Virginia Lottery still hasn’t given licenses to any casino operator, construction has already started on the Rivers Casino in neighboring Portsmouth, set to open in 2023, pending license approval.

Construction on HeadWaters waterfront site on 13 acres between Harbor Park and Norfolk Southern Railway has been delayed. In the meantime, the Pamunkey Tribe, who has the development rights to the Headwaters Casino, has approached the Norfolk City Council about putting a temporary casino at Harbor Park.

“We’re ready to make the investment and we’re ready to create job opportunities,” HeadWaters spokesman Jay Smith told The Virginina-Pilot.

Pulling some punches in Norfolk

Harbor Park opened in 1993 and is one of the largest Triple-A baseball stadiums in America. It also has a boxing center, a training facility for young boxers, but it has been closed since March 2020 because of the pandemic. The 13,000 square foot facility and the restaurant are being sought as the place for HeadWaters to install casino games as a temporary site.

Clearly, they want to get an early jab in before the Portsmouth site opens and take advantage of the Hampton Roads market (1.7 million people).

Earlier in March, Norfolk City manager Chip Filer told 10WAVY.com to move the boxing center, and the restaurants were viable spots.

“The mayor has stressed that we don’t want a tent, we don’t want cargo containers, we don’t want a trailer with air conditioning in it. If you are going to something, we want to see it in a permanent spot. In something that looks good and represents the area.”

Norfolk City Council members blanched at the idea of moving the boxing center. It provides a valuable resource for underprivileged youth and suggests that the Pamunkey Tribe pay for a relocation.

The temporary Virginia casino is on the agenda for the Norfolk City Planning Commission on April 28.

Does Harbor Park want a temporary casino?

The Tides are owned by Ken Young, who has been a proponent of merging professional sports sites and gaming opportunities.

Young, who also owns the Albuquerque Isotopes (mandatory Simpsons reference) and Biloxi Shuckers minor league franchises, tried to get a sports betting operation at Harbor Park after Virginia legalized the practice in April 2020, but the process was delayed.

State law allows the tribe to apply for a temporary operating permit, but only if the site is located in the ‘footprint’ where the casino will be located. Temporary permits limit gaming, only allowing for slot machines.

All roads lead to Norfolk

Norfolk is part of what is known as the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, along with Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. The population of Norfolk is just under 250,000.

The state government allowed citizens in five economically depressed cities to vote on bringing a casino to their hometown. Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and Norfolk voters approved the measure, while Richmond narrowly defeated the proposal.

The Hard Rock Casino and Resort in Bristol is hoping to open a temporary location in mid-2022 and a full casino next year. Caesars is looking at an opening in Danville in late 2023.

Photo by Sherry Smith / Shutterstock.com
Darren Cooper Avatar
Written by

Darren Cooper

Darren Cooper is a staff writer for Playin USA. He?s been a sports writer in the Northeast since 1998 and developed a keen interest in covering the gaming, casino and sports betting industry and has written for multiple additional Play state sites. He always bets responsibly although his grandfather did have a secret system for betting on the ponies at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

View all posts by Darren Cooper