HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- “Wow” was the prevailing sentiment from most of the coaches, players and administrators from the Atlantic 10 that walked into the new Henrico Sports & Events Center for the first time on Thursday.
The facility hosted the A-10’s media day for women’s basketball and will host the A-10’s Women’s Championship tournament next March.
Dennis Bickmeier, the former president of Richmond Raceway, now heads Henrico’s Sports & Entertainment Authority, and was in charge of not only bringing this facility to completion, but getting it filled with events and athletes.
“It’s a combination of relief and excitement,” Bickmeier said of the building finally being ready for visitors that didn’t need hard hats. “When you watch this facility come out of the ground and to have our first event here is really a sense of accomplishment.”
The A-10 agreed to host their women’s tournament here when the building was little more than an idea and some sketches on paper. While those games are still months away, the first impression of their leap of faith was reassuringly positive.
“It was an aggressive decision,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said about her conference’s decision to hold the women’s tournament here. “Being the first Division I Championship played in this building, it’s nice to be out leading and not following. When I walked in here, it was a ‘wow.’”
Bickmeier and his staff met with A-10 officials and coaches back in August when the building was little more than a shell surrounded by dirt.
“We took them a vision of what this building was going to be,” Bickmeier recalled. “I appreciate their confidence in us.”
The VCU women’s team will host one of their early home games at the Arena on December 11th when they face Delaware, a rare first for a women’s program anywhere across the NCAA.
“When I walked in, I was amazed,” said VCU sophomore guard Timaya Lewis-Eutsey. “It’s a really cool opportunity to be one of the first to be able to play here. It reminds me of playing AAU when basketball was so much fun.”
Richmond senior forward Addie Budnik said the team was "so grateful" for the opportunity.
“Being able to have our fans and families come here. It’s going to be huge for the league," Budnik said.
The Center can host 12 basketball and 24 volleyball courts at any given time. One end of the 115,000 feet of court space can be converted into an arena-style facility that can seat up to 4,500 fans. That will be on full, national display when all of these teams return next March.
“We didn’t build a gymnasium here,” Bickmeier explained. “We built a multi-purpose events center. People can come out and see the flexibility that this place has. It’s not just basketball or volleyball. Those are going to be played a lot, but we can do so many other things.”
“We didn’t build this for 2024. We built it for 2034 and beyond,” Bickmeier said.