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VIR hotel, related mixed-use project eyed in Alton area

SoVaNow.com / February 15, 2021

Virginia International Raceway wants to build a new 100-room hotel, villas and apartments at the Alton-area complex, but there’s an obstacle standing in the way — a lack of potable water from the track’s well system.

“In the next five years, we plan to double our investment,” said Connie Nyholm, VIR owner and chief executive officer. Nyholm spoke of the track’s plans at a Wednesday work session and retreat of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors.

During the seven-hour retreat — which covered a broad range of issues before the county — supervisors discussed collaborative options for providing municipal water service to VIR. The track is currently hamstrung by its reliance on wells, most of which have failed or provide only limited supplies of water, not enough to allow for a major expansion.

“VIR has five water wells, but relies heavily on one,” said Mark Estes, executive director of the Halifax County Service Authority. Estes added that two wells at VIR have high contamination levels and water from another well has high levels of fluoride.

One potential solution for VIR’s water woes is to create a connection in the Ringgold area with the Danville-Pittsylvania County Service Authority and run a line from Highway 62 to the raceway. The second option is to follow the main water line along Highway 58 and cross into Halifax County.

A destination for automotive and motorsports industry enthusiasts and vacationers, VIR generates roughly $237 million annually in economic activity and has a local impact of $50 million in Halifax County, primarily due to visitor spending. VIR’s Virginia Motorsports Technology Park houses 18 auto-related businesses, and the track pays $265,000 directly in taxes and fees to Halifax County.

The expansion of VIR depends on a reliable water source to accommodate new housing development. Plans there call for the addition of a hotel with 100 rooms, 20 villas, and garage apartments — “man caves,” as Nyholm described them.

In October, an unnamed investor purchased an ownership stake in VIR. “He is ready to invest in his investment,” said Nyholm of her new partner.

Nyholm called Halifax County local government the track’s “super power” because of its willingness to invest in the track’s growth. “We are the envy of our competitors because of the support from Halifax County,” she said.

County Administrator Scott Simpson said it would take a partnership between VIR, the Board of Supervisors, and the Halifax County Service Authority to make the infrastructure improvements needed to sustain the raceway’s growth. “The expansion plans are great,” said Simpson, adding that infrastructure improvements will be needed to realize VIR’s five-year vision.

“We can’t invest in the entire project, but there needs to be a partnership,” said Simpson.

“We get a lot of revenue from VIR,” said ED-8 supervisor William Bryant Claiborne. “We need to keep Danville from getting it.”

With the raceway currently limited to 250 spectators on site, Nyholm expressed the hope that spectators will be allowed to return in full in August for the Michelin GT Challenge. This event includes the Michelin Pilot Challenge, Lamborghini Super Trofeo, and the Porsche GT3 Cup USA. A documentary of the “resurrection” of VIR will be released in the summer, hosted by stock care racing legend Richard Petty.

Also returning are the SCCA Run-offs, the largest amateur race in the country, which brought out a field of 700 cars in 2019. Nyholm said VIR is expecting up to 1,000 cars for the 2022 and 2023 races.

With VIR’s event schedule on the rebound after the pandemic, “hopefully we can have the hotel open before the second year,” said Nyholm.

VIR employs 60 county residents and generates economic activity at levels that would pay the salaries of almost 300 state and regional local firefighters, teachers, and policeman, Nyholm said. The facility is also provided at no charge for the training of firefighters and police.



Planned Use Development in Alton are aims for hotel, homes, grocery

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