For a small town, Virginia City has hosted a number of popular special events, such as the International Camel and Ostrich Races or the Outhouse Races that annually attracts hundreds of thousands to the area.
However, while the events have been a boon to the town’s economy, it also at times creats a logistical headache with limited space to accommodate the mass of people.
But a solution to the problem is already taking shape.
Work has begun on the Virginia City Arena and Fairgrounds, a new open-air events venue that in time could seat as many as 5,000 spectators. It’s located on a 15-acre parcel three blocks east of C Street in the south part of Virginia City.
The project will cost roughly $250,000 including rental costs, groundwork and purchase of the arena to get it fully operational. The money will come from the Storey County capital project fund.
Deny Dotson, director of the Virginia City Tourism Commission along with other Storey County officials, explored the idea to develop a permanent facility
“It was very challenging to host events,” Dotson said. “We needed to find a long-term solution if we wanted to continue to sustain our tourism industry.”
They scouted potential options and identified one of the few flat and open spots in Virginia City and worked with the landowners to bring the project to fruition. Dotson said the landowners already did excavation work on the property and had access to some utilities.
The county did the remaining site work, including creating a main gate, pedestrian and vehicle access pathways and finishing utilities setup.
The county already has 20 sets of bleachers available to position around the perimeter of the arena, which is 210 feet by 130 feet.
Hoof Beat Gates & Corrals, a manufacturer based in Fallon, was awarded the contract to put the whole project together.
Dotson said the county is looking all over the country to purchase more sets of bleachers that can accommodate an additional 750 to 1,000 extra spectators. He wants them made of out of aluminum to withstand the sometimes harsh climate conditions.
Dotson indicated the venue could feature a few amenities such as picnic areas, a vendor village for food, beverage and merchandise sales and possibly a paid parking lot.
The permanent venue augments retail development in the area that is close to tourist attractions.
“I see a little bit of development there in the future,” Dotson said. “It (the arena) will have close proximity to the Gold Stamp Mill, Comstock Gold Mill, St. Mary’s Church and the Fourth Ward School.”
And the V&T Railroad runs close to the property.
With the ability to accommodate more people, the facility also may create positions for events staff. Dotson said typically an event needs a staff of 30 people, although some of them are staffed on a volunteer basis.
Although town and county officials have taken a conservative approach to the project, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of big hopes for the future. If all goes well, Dotson feels the Fairgrounds could be a destination similar to the Reno Livestock Events Center.
“With a permanent facility in place, that’s exactly what we need to move forward,” Dotson said. “We wanted to plan for the future.”
The goal is to have fairgrounds and arena operational for the busy spring and summer special event schedule, especially the Camel and Ostrich Races in September.