Norfolk planners OK temporary casino
Pamunkey request now goes before City Council
The Norfolk Planning Commission Thursday approved a request for a conditional use permit from the Pamunkey Tribe to open a temporary casino at Harbor Park before opening the nearby $500 million HeadWaters Resort & Casino. The request now goes to Norfolk’s city council in June.
Harbor Park is home to Norfolk’s minor league baseball team, the Tides, and is located along the Elizabeth River. The temporary casino would be housed at the stadium within the Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker Boxing and Fitness Center, which has been shuttered about two and a half years, and within the Hits at the Park restaurant.
The center’s first floor would house the casino and the second floor would include casino space and a high-end sports bar and grill. The boxing center is moving to the Park Place Multi-Service Center while Norfolk explores a permanent location for it.
Along with the casino and restaurant inside the stadium, developers asked for permission to construct a tent
and temporary office space nearby. These will be removed within six months after the temporary casino stops operating.
Part of the plans include spending $175,000 to upgrade kitchen equipment at the existing Hits at the Park restaurant.
Rodney Ferguson, executive vice president of the Pamunkey Indian Tribal Gaming Authority, told the planning commission that the temporary casino will have about 625 slot machines and electronic table games at the temporary casino.
“It will be a first step into the Norfolk market that will showcase what HeadWaters can actually do,” he said.
Smoking will not be allowed inside the facility, Ferguson said. He also said security is a top priority and the casino, which will be open 24 hours a day, will have at least 45 security officers.
The tribe hopes to obtain a license from the Virginia Lottery Commission on July 20 so it can start construction on the temporary casino. Ferguson estimated it would take six months to complete construction and hire, train and develop the necessary staff. He anticipated 275 employees would work in the temporary facility, with most being full-time workers. The casino’s goal is to hire 90% of employees locally, with 50% of those workers being minorities, officials said.
Before the casino begins recruiting those workers, however, Ferguson said the tribe wants to first get through the city’s approval process.
The permanent HeadWaters Resort & Casino will include a convention hotel, onsite restaurants, an entertainment venue, spa and pools. In September 2021, the Pamunkey Tribe named Newport News-based construction company W.M. Jordan Co. and Suffolk Construction as the general contractors to build the casino. The 300-room hotel, casino and entertainment project, set to open in 2024, is expected to bring about 2,000 construction jobs.