RICHMOND, Va. — When the Harlem Globetrotters passed through town Dec. 29 to close out the year at the Richmond Coliseum, little did the world-famous basketball team know it’d be the headliner of what appears to be the last event in the aging arena’s nearly 50-year run.
Many locals likely didn’t know, either, as the City of Richmond – which is mulling a redevelopment project that would replace the arena – effectively closed the venue, without announcement or fanfare, at the start of this year.
The city’s contract with SMG, the company that managed the Coliseum, expired at the close of 2018, and no events for this year are listed on the venue’s website – the result of a decision to stop booking events past Dec. 31, according to a summary of a meeting with SMG that the city provided to BizSense.
In that meeting, held Dec. 3 and involving city budget director Jay Brown and SMG’s Dolly Vogt and Tabitha Sechrist, the parties discussed that due to financial losses from the Coliseum’s operating deficit, a determination had been made to not book events this year “until a decision had been made about the fate of the Coliseum.”
That fate could include demolition if the city goes forward with the proposed Navy Hill redevelopment, a $1.4 billion project proposed by Tom Farrell’s NH District Corp. that would replace the Coliseum with a larger arena as part of a larger redevelopment of a surrounding 10-block area.
Prior to that proposal, the city had been mulling whether to close the facility due to the deficit, which was said to be totaling $1.5 million in annual costs to the city. The uncertainty led to several high-profile events getting booked elsewhere, either locally or in other markets. It also prompted the Richmond Roughriders arena football team to leave the city for Wheeling, West Virginia.
Some of those events have been picked up by the neighboring Greater Richmond Convention Center, which will host this spring’s VCU commencement ceremonies and has booked several Amway events typically held at the Coliseum.