Visitor’s Center opens at new location

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010

City employees and contractors show off the lobby of the new Visitor Center in the renovated Nansemond County Courthouse. From left, Kevin Sary, visitor center coordinator; Lynette White, tourism manager; Gerry Jones, capital programs and buildings director; and Tony Russell with construction company E.T. Gresham.

After months of construction and years of planning, the Suffolk Visitor Center and tourism department have moved into their new home at the corner of North Main Street and Constance Road.

The old Nansemond County Courthouse, located at 524 N. Main St., now is the new home of the visitor center and the tourism department. It is open for business from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, despite contractors who continue to add finishing touches. A ribbon cutting will take place on Nov. 19, coinciding with the city’s Grand Illumination ceremony.

“I am thrilled to share our pride with all the citizens,” said tourism manager Lynette White. “We plan to tell the Suffolk story.”

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The visitor center and tourism department formerly were located at the Prentis House just down the street. However, the space available had become inadequate for their needs, and the city is on a mission to eliminate costly leases of privately-owned buildings.

The entryway to the renovated building features display cases for items detailing the history of Suffolk and the ecosystem of the Great Dismal Swamp. Also included on the first floor are an information desk, gift shop and more than 100 brochures promoting events and attractions around the state. A visitor lounge features wireless Internet access, comfortable chairs and free coffee, compliments of Sara Lee, which has a local facility.

The first floor also includes space for a Suffolk Raceway history exhibit, as well as restrooms and a small working space for employees.

A conference room and tourism department employee offices are located on the second floor, as well as a small employee kitchen.

The building was furnished entirely with items brought from the former space at the Prentis House, buildings and capital programs manager Gerry Jones said.

The renovation project was financed with $755,000 of local money, $100,000 from a federal Department of Energy Grant, and $149,000 in grant money for the Dismal Swamp portion.