Norfolk Harbor Park Stadium Address Change Allows Temporary Casino Operation
Norfolk’s Harbor Park minor league baseball stadium has changed addresses. The change will help the effort to temporarily bring casino gambling to the venue.
Harbor Park is home to the Norfolk Tides baseball team, which plays on the Triple-A level — one grade below Major League Baseball (MLB). The stadium is owned by the City of Norfolk.
Harbor Park opened in 1993, located at 150 Park Avenue. But city officials recently readdressed the stadium to 200 Park Avenue.
Local leaders say the change isn’t directly related to plans to open a temporary gaming space inside the stadium while the adjacent HeadWaters Resort & Casino is built. But the new address certainly remedies what could have been a regulatory nightmare.
Norfolk voters during the 2020 presidential election backed a local referendum to allow a casino resort to be constructed. The facility would be located on 13.5 acres of land adjacent to Harbor Park, which is presently a parking lot. Local voters backed the election question with a little more than 65% support.
The city partnered with the Pamunkey Indian Tribe and billionaire Jon Yarbrough for its casino opportunity. He is a gaming industry veteran whose fortune is estimated at north of $3 billion.
HeadWaters is a $500 million undertaking that includes a casino floor with approximately 3,000 slot machines, 150 table games, and a sportsbook, plus a 500-room hotel, as many as seven restaurants, a luxury spa, convention space, a concert venue, and a rooftop pool overlooking the Elizabeth River.
The 2020 ballot referendum Norfolk voters approved specifies that casino gambling, with their blessing, would be authorized only at the “approximate street address of 200 Park Avenue.”
With HeadWaters not expected to open until 2024, the development group and Norfolk City Council plan to open a temporary casino inside Harbor Park. The interim gaming space would allow HeadWaters to begin obtaining a market share in Virginia’s forthcoming commercial gaming industry and begin generating new local tax revenue.
The Pamunkey Tribe, Yarbrough, and city officials are targeting a temporary casino in what was formerly a restaurant and boxing club inside the stadium building on its lower level. But with Harbor Park’s address being 150 Park Avenue until last week, the referendum’s language could have caused legal concerns with placing slots and table games inside the baseball property.
However, Norfolk City Council spokesperson Kelly Straub told The Virginian Pilot that the address change was not simply to allow gaming at Harbor Park.
“This is part of a boundary adjustment, which is a routine measure on a redevelopment project such as this,” Straub said.
HeadWaters wants to place 628 slot machines inside Harbor Park and complement the facility with a 130-seat restaurant. The Norfolk Planning Commission last month approved a conditional use permit for the stadium casino.
Former Tenants Out
The HeadWaters temporary casino is to occupy the former “Hits at the Park” restaurant and the city’s Boxing and Fitness Center. The eatery closed amid the pandemic. The Boxing and Fitness Center has been relocated to the city-owned Park Place Multi-Purpose Center on W. 29th Street.
With Harbor Park’s address now permitted to house casino gambling, Norfolk must apply for a gaming license with the Virginia Lottery. The state agency in April made history by issuing Hard Rock Bristol, the commonwealth’s first casino permit.
Hard Rock plans to open its temporary casino in Bristol early next month.
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