April 14, 2023
Building on the regional collaboration that helped Chesterfield become one of the most sought-after sports tourism destinations on the east coast, the county has hired J.C. Poma as its first-ever executive director of sports, visitation and entertainment effective May 1.
Poma comes to Chesterfield from Richmond Region Tourism, where he has worked for seven years. He currently serves as vice president of community relations for the region’s official destination marketing and tourism organization. As a member of its senior leadership team, Poma developed deep connections within the U.S. tourism industry and built effective working relationships with a variety of stakeholders across the Richmond region.
“I could not be more thankful to the Board of Supervisors and county administration for choosing me to execute their strategic vision and maximize the benefit of sports, visitation and entertainment to Chesterfield residents,” Poma said. “While the county has experienced steady growth in its sports tourism portfolio over the past decade, it has the potential to reach far greater heights. I’m excited to be part of that endeavor and can’t wait to get started.”
Poma, who holds degrees from the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, began working for Richmond Region Tourism in 2016 as a sports development manager. He was promoted to director of sports relations in 2019, then assumed his current position in 2021.
Honored in Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 last year, Poma currently is an advisory board member for the United States Sports Congress and serves on the board of directors for the Sportable Paralympic Sports Club.
“We are grateful for J.C.’s leadership and passion over the last seven years at Richmond Region Tourism and look forward to working closely with him in his new role,” said Katherine O’Donnell, executive vice president of Richmond Region Tourism. “As the region’s localities continue to invest in sports tourism facilities, it enables us to partner to bring in more tournaments, athletes, families and fans who support local businesses. The entire region benefits. I look forward to a continued bright future for sports tourism and regional collaboration with J.C.’s leadership in Chesterfield County.”
Sports tourism fills hotel rooms, restaurants, retail businesses and attractions in Chesterfield, driving economic activity and helping to diversify the local tax base. During fiscal year 2022, Chesterfield hosted 63 sports-related events – an increase of 24% over the previous 12 months -- that included 253,111 attendees and generated $34.4 million in direct economic impact, as well as $1.28 million in direct local tax revenue. Participants booked 26,000-plus room nights at hotels in the county.
According to Tourism Economics, Chesterfield saw $535.9 million in total visitor spending in calendar year 2021 that generated $26.1 million in direct local tax revenue -- equivalent to 5 cents on the real estate tax rate. With recent hotel openings and future hotels planned, bringing online additional meeting room space, the county is positioned to attract more destination-based and business travel.
“Tourism is a vital element of our ongoing work to increase commercial tax revenue and reduce our reliance on residential property assessments,” said Kevin Carroll, chair of the Board of Supervisors. “Thanks to our mutually beneficial partnership with Richmond Region Tourism, Chesterfield has built a reputation as an attractive destination for visitors. We’re pleased to add J.C. to our team and are confident he’ll help take us to the next level.”
River City Sportsplex has been the hub of local sports tourism activity since it opened in 2010. Chesterfield acquired the 115-acre Genito Road athletic facility six years later. With 12 turf fields, it is widely regarded by sports tournament operators as one of the biggest and best in the country, but it’s also a public park that gets about 60% of its daily use from teams and leagues affiliated with the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.
Chesterfield’s $540 million bond referendum package that was approved last November includes funding for enhancements at River City Sportsplex: construction of four more fields (for a total of 16); additional parking; a large destination play area with a splash pad and a universal playground that can accommodate both disabled and able-bodied children; a picnic area, fitness circuit and 5k trail system. Also included will be restrooms, shade structures at the fields and other amenities for participants and spectators.
Likewise, the area around River City Sportsplex is getting a boost, with a unique attraction (The Lake) currently under construction and the potential for additional complementary development nearby.
“Sports tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S., and investment in and around River City Sportsplex is necessary as we compete with other localities for the right to host events,” said Clover Hill District Supervisor Chris Winslow, whose district includes the sportsplex. “By giving people other things to do in the area, we can capitalize on the high level of activity at that facility, keep more tourism dollars in Chesterfield and add local amenities and attractions for our citizens’ enjoyment.”
Other significant bond referendum projects include improvements to the 316-acre Horner Park and creation of two additional water access points along the James River. These projects are intended to enhance the visitor and user experience, increase Chesterfield’s attractiveness as an event host and provide additional recreation opportunities for county residents.
Beyond the recreational, sports and entertainment facilities already noted, the county offers many other amenities to attract potential visitors and provide for a high quality of life for those living here: Pocahontas State Park, Henricus Historical Park, Metro Richmond Zoo, SwimRVA aquatic center, Richmond Volleyball Club, Perkinson Center for the Arts and Education, Children’s Museum and Virginia State University’s Multi-Purpose Center.
Chesterfield also is home to premier public golf courses, venues for weddings or other large events, breweries and wineries, many well-preserved historical sites, a high-quality local park system and miles of waterfront trails along the James and Appomattox rivers. The proposed 43-mile Fall Line Trail originating at the Appomattox River will be another unique attraction worth promotion to those near and far.
“We are fortunate to have incredible natural resources, recreational and entertainment amenities in Chesterfield, along with private sector investments and strategic local investments to keep this a great place to live, work, play and stay,” said County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey. “Having someone with J.C.’s experience and relationships in a leadership position will help us bring it all together and build on our strong record of success.”