01. Bruce Thompson
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Oh what a difference a year can make.
Twelve months ago, official plans for a Virginia Beach arena were effectively dead, and the Cavalier Hotel properties at the Oceanfront were tangled in a legal squabble.
Today, Bruce Thompson is leading a quarter-billion-dollar redevelopment at the Cavalier site and he's the orchestrator of one of two $200 million arena proposals the city is considering.
has a hand in some of those projects.
For the ones he
probably has opinions and listeners in high places.
eyes, the area holds so much promise, he
"I have high hopes that Route 460, with the amount of money the state invested in it, will come to fruition and be a stimulus for the port," he
Thompson was born in Norfolk's Neighborhood Shores district in December 1952 and moved to a dairy farm in Virginia Beach at age 12.
He ran and sold a sub shop before age 22, dabbled in the ski business and the travel and tour business and co-founded Gold Key in 1986.
When an arena plan floated by Comcast-Spectacor
fizzled in early 2013, Thompson
took it upon himself to revive the concept in a form that would work without a professional sports team.
collaborated with W.M. Jordan CEO John Lawson, former Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko and others, which resulted in the submission of an arena proposal last November.
If the W.M. Jordan plan is selected, the 18,000-seat arena could open in late 2016.
has been an active campaign contributor, but he
hardly gives along party lines.
Of the $102,000 he's
donated to candidates and committees since 1999, Virginia Public Access Project records show 37 percent went to Democrats and 42 percent went to Republicans.
The rest went to nonpartisan local races.
single-largest campaign gift was $25,000 in 2013 toward McAuliffe's Democratic bid for governor.
When former Gov.
Bob McDonnell, a Republican, was running for the seat in 2008, Thompson
donated $10,000 to his campaign.
had unique encounters with both governors.
Last October, he
stood in for then-candidate McAuliffe in a debate against Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
$50 million Oceanfront Hilton Garden Inn is set to debut this month, Thompson
is working on two other big hotel projects in the area.
At the North End of the Beach he
plans to give the 87-year-old Cavalier
on the Hill a 5-star facelift and replace the 1970s sister hotel across the street with a new structure.
building roughly 100 homes on the 21.2-acre property - among other things.
In downtown Norfolk he's
building a $126 million convention center-hotel project that city officials have desired since the early 2000s.
The upscale hotel will carry the Hilton flag and will feature multiple restaurants, a rooftop garden and bar, a series of lounges that resemble living rooms and more.
on the Hill, which was recently added to Virginia's historic registry, is expected to open in 2016.
The Hilton and its 500,000-square-foot conference center are expected to start construction by this summer and possibly open in 2016.
Despite the successes, the road for Thompson
over the past year hasn't been entirely paved with smooth asphalt.
Last summer, some Virginia Beach taxpayers expressed displeasure with the size of the $18 million subsidy the city voted to contribute to the Cavalier
is focused on the future.
company has a five-year plan to double revenue to about $274 million by the end of 2015, and company finance officials said things are on track.
That's just based on intra-market growth, but the firm could expand its footprint elsewhere.
Besides the projects in the pipeline, he's
eyes on places like Rudee Loop in Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks in North Carolina and even Williamsburg.
With regard to the arena, he's a consultant for the W.M. Jordan plan, but another group is also vying to build Virginia's largest arena.
said Hampton Roads
will benefit no matter who builds the arena, and he'll likely pursue a nearby hotel as a result.
"We would certainly be a respondent to a [request for proposals] that the city puts out for a convention center hotel if the arena is built," he
"I'm sure they'll have plenty of suitors."
And PHR, the hotel management division of Thompson's
company, is part of Chesapeake-based MEB's plans to build a hotel near TCC's
Virginia Beach campus.
There are talks for a partnership with the community college on a new hospitality-management curriculum utilizing the structure.
One of the projects near and dear to Thompson's heart is "Camp Grom," which will be an extension of JT's Grommet Island Beach Park and Playground for EveryBODY - the nation's first wheelchair-accessible beachfront park and playground.
dedicated the park to his
son Josh, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease.
said the city has allowed 64 acres to be used for the park, and the YMCA will operate the $15 million development expected to open in 2016.
"I think everything that a disabled child or a wounded veteran would want in a recreation facility is being accommodated.
"There are 27,000 wounded veterans and over 100,000 persons with disabilities in the region," Thompson