HeadWaters Makes Headway With Temporary Casino Build

Written By Julie Walker on June 21, 2022

The city planning commission of Norfolk, Virginia has approved a conditional use permit request for HeadWaters Resort & Casino. The permit will allow developers to debut a temporary gaming operation before the main casino launches.

Renderings for this temporary space, dubbed “The Pamunkey Club”, suggest plans for more than 600 slot machines.

Temporary casino approved for Norfolk

Casino spokespeople released plans for the temporary site earlier this year as a bridge until the permanent casino opens. City Council and the Virginia lottery board must both approve these plans in order for construction to begin — a process that is expected to take about six months.

The temporary permit will then allow the facility to operate for two years following its initial launch. Post-plans for the space have yet to be announced, though it’s been revealed that the location’s slot machines will be transported to the main casino.

In fact, the entire temporary build will likely bear similarities to its permanent counterpart.

Rodney Ferguson, executive vice president of gaming and resort operations, called the property, “a facility that will be a teaser to our main, permanent facility.”

Main casino launch expected in Q4 of 2023

Construction for the $500 million main facility is expected to begin immediately after the state’s gaming board approves its casino operator license.

The 13.4-acre waterfront location will feature 3,000 slot machines and 150 table games. Its hotel alone is outfit with more than 300 rooms along with:

  • rooftop bar
  • rooftop space for outdoor events
  • infinity pool
  • luxury spa

City officials have said the casino resort will bring jobs to the area and help make it a premier target destination in the Mid-Atlantic. In response to a concern about pulling police resources from the city, casino officials said the estimated 275 jobs expected to come with the project includes roughly 45 trained security officers.

 The site’s water-themed moniker is by design. As a HeadWaters Resort & Casino announcement stated last year:

 “While headwaters represent the beginning of a river, the name ‘HeadWaters’ represents the beginning of a new chapter in the life of the Pamunkey Tribe and Norfolk. The name is also a nod to the importance that rivers have played in the Tribe’s and the City’s history.”

Permanent casino, Harbor Park to remain neighbors

One condition of this permit is that the temporary facility must exist “in the footprint” of the main property.

HeadWaters, of course, will be located next door to the 12,000-seat minor league ballpark Harbor Park, which will also receive select renovations thanks to this permit approval. Opened in 1993, this legendary home of the Norfolk Tides will celebrate its 30th birthday on April 14, 2023. The Tides are a Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Pamunkey Tribe is so dedicated to making HeadWaters and Harbor Park the two top destinations on the Elizabeth River waterfront, they’ve committed at least $20 million to contribute toward shoreline resiliency issues. The tribe also pledged more funding for the 10.5-mile Elizabeth River Trail.

HeadWaters Marina is also included in the waterfront plans and will allow travel to the casino and ballpark via boat.

This Norfolk project is one of several ongoing casino builds in the state, alongside Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth, and potentially Richmond.

The Rivers Portsmouth Casino Resort and a temporary Hard Rock locale in Bristol are first on the list to open later this year.

Photo by Dreamstime / Gilbert Keuten
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