RIR president to head Henrico sports/entertainment authority
Dennis Bickmeier to start new county job in April
Henrico County officials on Wednesday named longtime Richmond Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier to lead its new sports and entertainment authority.
Bickmeier’s last day with the raceway, where he has led for more than a decade, is April 15. He will begin working in his new role on April 18.
“With Dennis Bickmeier serving as our executive director of the Henrico Sports and Entertainment Authority, we will immediately insert an industry expert who knows and loves our region,” said Supervisor Dan Schmitt, Brookland district, and chair of Richmond Region Tourism. “He is tested, and he is trusted, having spent years working alongside public officials, hotel operators and stakeholders.”
The county Board of Supervisors established the sports and entertainment authority in April 2021 and approved $585,896 for its personnel and operations in the 2021 to 2022 fiscal year budget. The authority currently has two staff members who transferred from the county’s Division of Recreation and Parks. Dawn H. Miller serves as tourism supervisor, and Michael McCormack as sports tourism coordinator.
“Sports is a business,” Bickmeier said. “Entertainment is a business … Event promoters make decisions based on what is best for their business … They’re going to ask us, can their business be successful by coming to Henrico County. It’s our job to show them why Henrico County, why this region, is best for their business for sports and entertainment experience. Our team will work every day to deliver against that mission.”
As raceway president, Bickmeier oversaw the 1,100-acre track that hosts two NASCAR weekends and has more than 200 event days a year. He oversaw the $30 million infield improvements that the raceway completed in 2018 and its transformation into a mass COVID-19 vaccination and testing site.
Bickmeier has held positions with Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway, in California, and the NCAA’s Big West Conference. He has also worked in the front office for major league sports teams including the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams (the first time the team was based in LA), the MLB’s Los Angeles Angels and the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.
He lives in Glen Allen and serves on the boards of Richmond Region Tourism, the Henrico Education Foundation and the Henrico Police Athletic League.
Bickmeier earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sports administration and facility management from Ohio University.
Along with promoting sports and entertainment tourism, the authority will manage the county’s public-private facilities, including the 180,000-square-foot indoor sports center at Virginia Center Commons expected to be completed in September 2023 and the $2.3 billion GreenCity mixed-use development.
The authority is ready to knock on doors that haven’t been knocked on in a while, Bickmeier said.
“If we get a facility that has the ability to host the NCAA tournament, that’s a door we’re going to knock on,” he said. “But it takes our local universities to partner on something like that. You look at other events, national governing bodies like USA Gymnastics, USA Track and Field, those types of things — those are discussions that we want to have with national governing bodies as well. The opportunity to bring those types of events to town, they don’t happen overnight. There’s a long lead time to be able to do those types of things, so it’s going to take a while to prospect and bring those types of things to town.”
In 2021, the county hosted 160 sports tournaments that generated $59.1 million in economic impact, Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas said. In 2019, that number was $66.2 million, according to a news release.