VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - College Beach Weekend is expected to return to the Oceanfront this upcoming weekend, City Manager Patrick Duhaney told city council members.
The gathering of college students, along with events at the Sports Center, will lead to a very busy weekend with heavy traffic expected, according to the city.
About 30,000 college students are expected at the Oceanfront, the city said, putting it on par with the 2018 College Beach Weekend.
"We want to make sure residents know that we have a plan in place, but we need you to know what those plans are and be prepared for it," said Tiffany Russell, the city's director of communication.
The plan includes increased police presence, beefing up resort ambassadors for the weekend and re-directing traffic if needed. The city is also offering free entertainment at stages around the boardwalk, including a DJ.
"We know how to handle large crowds. We know the safety protocols that need to be in place. We do this for Fourth of July and Shamrock weekend," said Russell.
Still, there have been issues during the weekend in the past. Violence in 2018 led to the creation of the Something in the Water festival. The festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. Pharrell Williams, the festival's founder, elected not to move forward with the festival this year, citing "toxic energy" in city leadership.
"While most of our visitors are well-behaved, the City and the Virginia Beach Police Department are stepping up communications to ensure there is no misunderstanding about our intent to maintain order and continue to provide a safe, enjoyable experience for all," the city said in a newly created website.
Generally, College Beach Weekend has happened at the end of April, but city staffers recently noticed chatter on social media this weekend.
"We are certainly welcoming the students. We want them to have a safe time, and we want them to come back," said Russell.
Mike Mauch, the owner of the restaurant Harvest on Atlantic Avenue and the Vice President of the Atlantic Avenue Association, is optimistic things will go smoothly.
"I'm hopeful for a fun, safe weekend. I hope that everybody comes down and has a great time while still obeying all the laws and staff that make this place nice," he said.
The city is implementing a series of enhanced measures in preparation for the event.
In anticipation of heavy traffic, and to accommodate the larger-than-normal crowds entering the resort area this weekend, traffic on I-264 eastbound may be diverted at Parks Avenue and redirected westbound on I-264 as early as 7 p.m. on Friday, April 8; 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 9; and 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 10 until traffic is flowing safely.
If a traffic diversion is necessary, the eastbound exit for S. Birdneck Road and the westbound exit for First Colonial Road would be closed. Other indirect routes into the resort area would remain open.
Residents who live in the Oceanfront area are advised to plan trips early and avoid the interstate.
For the weekend
In addition to a robust traffic management plan, the city will have the following measures in place to ensure the comfort and safety of everyone at the oceanfront area this weekend:
- Live entertainment at 17th and 24th Street stages from 7-10 p.m.
- Portable restrooms every block between 16th and 24th streets by beach access points off the Boardwalk
- The Resort Ambassador program will have increased staffing to answer questions
- Signage in place for businesses and the Boardwalk area
- Public announcements for safety on the Boardwalk via speakers
- A Student Outreach Center will be open to engage with local and visiting students (2015 Atlantic Ave. inside Coastal Hotel & Suites Virginia Beach Oceanfront)
- Public parking lots will be open – please note that the Atlantic Avenue on-street parking program has ended for the season
- Beach Operations will sweep the beach daily at 4 a.m.
The city welcomes and encourages everyone to have a safe, fun time in Virginia Beach. Activities such as public consumption of alcohol, use or sale of drugs, destruction of property, assault,and indecent exposure are prohibited.
The Virginia Beach Police Department is committed to deescalating tense situations and seeking voluntary compliance for most infractions; however, people may be arrested if a given situation presents a danger to the public.
For Virginia Beach residents
City officials have engaged local businesses and stake holders in addition to promoters and colleges to plan for, prepare and educate all parties about what the city will be doing to safely manage the crowds. Residents and visitors can expect the following throughout the weekend:
- A strong presence from VBPD and camera monitoring throughout the Oceanfront
- Traffic Operations will work to minimize impacts of traffic in residential neighborhoods
- City crews will work to quickly empty trash receptacles and clean up the area
- Public safety will maintain access for emergency services (Police, Fire, EMS) to reach all neighborhoods and the Oceanfront area