HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- In his role as President of Richmond Raceway, Dennis Bickmeier has been a consultant for Henrico County on all sorts of issues and plans.
Naturally, when the county created a sports and entertainment authority to oversee its burgeoning landscape in hosting events, Bickmeier was one of the first people contacted.
“He’s a friend to many,” Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas said. “Going through this process, it became apparent that Dennis is an absolute talent.”
Keeping that talent in the area was of prime importance to Vithoulkas and Henrico County.
On Wednesday, Henrico announced Bickmeier will be the Executive Director of Henrico’s Sports and Entertainment Authority.
His office will oversee an industry that, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, still generated over $59 million in economic impact in 2021.
“It feels like I’ve been training for this for 33 years,” Bickmeier said. “To bring events into town, to work with amazing facilities. I feel like it’s all-encompassing of the experiences I’ve had.”
In addition to running Richmond Raceway since 2011, Bickmeier also ran tracks in Michigan and California. He worked for the National Football League's Los Angeles Rams, Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels, and the National Hockey League's Anaheim Ducks.
He is also on the board of directors for Richmond Region Tourism among other civic endeavors.
His work in turning Richmond Raceway into one of the area’s largest vaccination sites during the pandemic was noted in Wednesday’s announcement.
Bickmeier’s first priority will be to bring Henrico’s new planned facilities online.
These include an indoor sports and convocation center is being built on the site of the old Virginia Center Commons shopping mall, set to be open in Fall 2023.
Also, the new GreenCity development that includes a 17,000-seat arena is set to open in 2026 off Interstate 95 at the site of the former Best Product headquarters.
Those are venues and facilities that can help attract events, such as NCAA basketball tournaments, that have bypassed the Richmond area for several years.
“Those projects put us, as a county and as a region into a completely different level,” Bickmeier said. “Those are different conversations than what we’ve been having before. Those are exciting things to think about.”
Leaving a long career in NASCAR behind was not an easy decision.
Richmond Raceway remains one of the sport’s most noticeable and favored venues and underwent a $30 million renovation in 2018 on his watch. The upcoming race weekend on April 2 and 3 will be his last.
But the challenge of new opportunities and the chance to keep his families roots in the area was too strong to ignore.
“I’ve enjoyed the history and the legacy of the race track here,” Bickmeier said. “It will always have a piece of my heart. But this is an opportunity to build something from the ground up.”
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