The Outer Banks Voice – Tourism committee discusses future of Soundside event site
Tourism committee discusses future of event site
By Lucy Papachristou | Outer Banks Voice December 4, 2019
Members of the Dare County Tourism Council Event Center Advisory Committee held their inaugural meeting on Tuesday, December 3 to discuss potential plans for the future development of the Soundside event site in Nags Head.
The meeting took place six weeks after the Tourist Board gave the green light for the $ 3.1 million purchase of popular local restaurant Pamlico Jack’s, adjoining the Soundside property, as part of efforts to site expansion. The existing event venue, which hosts events as popular as the Outer Banks Seafood Festival, is widely considered underutilized.
The eight-member committee includes Lee Nettles, executive director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau; Myra Ladd-Bone, member of the Tourist Board and the Chamber of Commerce; Webb Fuller, chief commissioner and member of the Nags Tourism Board; Dare County Commissioner Rob Ross; Tonia Cohen, representative of the hotels / motels association; the mayor of Nags Head and architect Ben Cahoon; longtime civic leader of the Outer Banks and former chairman of the Tourist Board, Ralph Buxton; and event host and owner of Bearded Face Productions, Mike Dianna.
Tuesday’s two-hour meeting saw occasional tensions as members debated the feasibility of the project given restrictive orders from the town of Nags Head.
There are currently three proposed options under consideration by the committee which have been presented to the Tourist Board by a consultant. All three proposals include a 30,000-square-foot event venue, and two of them feature a 200-room hotel and a 5,400-square-foot ballroom. Only the third option uses the Pamlico Jack property as part of the hotel or for parking.
The Tourist Board hopes that the development of the site will help develop a âyear round tourism economy that improves the quality of lifeâ of local residents by âemphasizing visits outside of high seasonâ, but without âcompetingâ unduly local businesses, “Nettles said.” The challenge now, “he continued,” is figuring out how to connect all the properties. “
The committee discussed the short-term and long-term uses of the site, the first involving the use of Pamlico Jack’s as a temporary event space, as the property already has parking and a septic tank.
Long-term goals discussed included finding development partners (such as retail businesses), conducting a technical survey to begin planning the leaches, and writing a comprehensive financial plan.
Things changed a bit midway through the reunion when Cahoon and Fuller both expressed serious concerns about the proposed event center’s compliance with Nags Head’s ordinances. âI don’t want to take our long-term view without doing due diligence,â Fuller said.
A major concern for several committee members was the First Flight Adventure Park, a rope course that is on the same property as the now closed Dairy Queen. Parc Aventure renewed its five-year lease last year and has the option of renewing it twice. Fuller, in particular, was concerned that the company could âeffectively divideâ the property and interfere with the proposed hotel and event center.
For his part, Nettles said that he “does not see [the rope course] as insurmountable â, and stressed that the course itself takes place in wetlands, where buildings cannot be erected.
Some committee members also tried to take a step back and rethink the site.
âWe have to look at this as a blank canvas,â Ladd-Bone said. âWe have to pretend there’s nothing on the property, then ask, ‘What are we going to do with this? Then bypass our limits.
Commissioner Ross agreed, saying the group should focus on the long-term vision. âThis has the potential to be the crown jewel of County Dare,â he said.
Nettles acknowledged the potential difficulties, but also pointed out that such multi-purpose space is unprecedented in Nags Head, and possibly in County Dare. There is no plan for the committee to follow, he said.
Following the discussion of the ordinances, the committee agreed to commission a technical study of the property to get a better idea of ââsite restrictions in areas such as septic tanks and parking. They then adjourned until January or early February to allow time for the investigation to be completed.