NRV Mall hopes for a brighter future

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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va., Dec. 12, 2017 – NRV Mall: The New River Valley Mall, a shopping center filled with places to eat and retail stores, has been forced to close down several stores due to poor performance within the last few years. Photo: Chase Parker

by Chase Parker, Virginia Pellington, Josh Rodman–

The New River Valley Mall, located in Christiansburg, Va., has been struggling to bring in customers for years now. As a result, many of the mall’s signature stores have been forced to close up shop.

GAP, Tailgaters United, PacSun, Rue 21 and most recently JC Penny, are among the casualties of retail stores that have been forced to shut down their locations in the mall.

“JC Penny closing down was just a corporate thing,” explained Tina Corder, the Specialty Leasing Manager for the mall. “They closed several of their underperforming stores, so that was one of their choices. But it’s not really a bad thing for us. It was a store that was under-performing.”

The other stores have closed down for the same reason. For example, earlier this year Rue21 announced that they’d be closing 400 stores. Due to the New River Valley Mall’s struggles, the one located there was an easy target to shut down for the retailer.

Despite several big-name stores closing down, the mall’s management team says that it is already brainstorming ways to replace them and that there are several things currently in the works that will enhance the overall customer experience.

But for now, the slow mall traffic combined with the alarming rate of stores that have closed down has given mall management the task of finding ways to bring in more customers.

“‘Touch a Truck’ is one of our great events. We work with a lot of non-profits through the year to bring in things like that, and that’s such a great one because it’s a community event and it’s free,” Corder said. “We also have our Fall Festival in October that we work with the Christiansburg Police Department on. They’ve been doing that for 17 years now. So that’s just two of the free events that we hold to try and bring more traffic here to the mall.”

Another factor that benefits the mall is something that they have no control over the holiday season. According to Statista.com, retail sales during the holidays can account for as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales. The stores in the New River Valley mall are no exception.

“Christmas time is very important,” Corder said. “Most of the store’s sales are from the holiday season so they put a major focus on advertising for that.”

Come Dec. 26, however, Christmas time will be over and the management team’s plan to bring in more revenue to the mall will be put to the test.

Could Justin Fuente leave Virginia Tech?

by Chase Parker–

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CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 14, 2017 — Head Hokie: Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente speaks to the media at the 2017 ACC Media Day. Photo: Chase Parker

On Nov. 29, 2015, Virginia Tech officially named Justin Fuente as its head football coach. He was tasked with replacing a legend in Frank Beamer and rebuilding a program that had dropped into the realm of mediocrity. So far, he’s shown that he’s capable of accomplishing both tasks.

But not even two years later, the Hokies could be in danger of losing him.

Why, you may ask? One word: Florida.

In late October, the Florida Gators decided to part ways with then-head coach Jim McElwain, leaving one of the most coveted head coaching positions vacant.

According to SECCountry.com, the Virginia Tech head coach’s name has been floating around as a possible replacement.

But will Fuente leave for Gator Country? Probably not.

For starters, it would cost Florida a lot of money to acquire the 41-year-old head coach. This past offseason, Fuente agreed to a contract extension through the 2023 season that would pay over $3.5 million per year, which would increase up to $4 million per season by 2023, per the Roanoke Times. The Gators would have to offer him at least $4.5 million per year to pull him from Blacksburg.

On top of the hefty bill that it would take to sign Fuente, Florida would have to pay $6 million just to buy-out the contract from Virginia Tech. That may very well be more money than the Gators are willing to fork out.

Dollar signs aside, who’s to say that Fuente even wants to leave his gig at Virginia Tech behind? So far, he’s given absolutely no inclination that he wants to leave the Hokies in the dust, and he’s given every hint that he absolutely loves life as a Hokie.

When he signed his contract extension, he said, “My family feels incredibly blessed that I’m able to work at Virginia Tech and we’re able to call Blacksburg our home.”

Rumors are going to keep floating around until Florida makes its final decision, but odds are that Hokie fans have nothing to worry about, and that Fuente will stay in command of the football program for many years to come.

Southwest Virginia’s most wanted

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BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 21, 2016 – Speed Demon: Blacksburg High School running back Coleton Beck rushing down the field to score a touchdown against Heritage. Blacksburg won the game 24-17.  Photo: Courtesy of Coleton Beck

by Chase Parker–

Some say that speed kills. Others say that it is a way of life. For Blacksburg High School’s star running back Coleton Beck, it is the latter.

At the start of the 2016 football season, Beck was a fairly unknown athlete. Outside of local fans, virtually nobody knew his name. But by the season’s end, he had become the most highly-recruited player out of Southwest Virginia, gaining scholarship offers from big-time programs such as Pittsburgh, Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, according to WSLS.com.

Why? Because of how fast he can run.VISUAL CONTENTMARKETING

The local star boasts a 100-meter dash time so fast (10.41 seconds) that he is nearly within qualifying range for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team, which requires a time of 10.16 seconds, according to Flotrack.org. That type of quickness isn’t something that comes natural, either.

“I wasn’t always the fastest kid around,” Beck said. “I started strength, speed and agility training with former NFL linebacker Dennis Haley along with running track in the seventh grade. I’ve been fortunate to have great coaching ever since, including my current high school sprint coach Steve Schmitt.”

The speed that the local football star has gained over the years has helped evolve him into not only a highly-touted athlete, but a coach’s best friend as well.

Thad Wells, the head honcho of the Blacksburg High School football team, says that Beck is the fastest player he’s ever coached. Furthermore, he claims that having a player with speed like Beck’s makes his job much easier.

“Coaching a player like Beck reminds you that the game is simple,” Wells explained. “It comes down to the players. I just don’t want to over-complicate things.”

Despite Beck’s production, Wells still says that there is room to grow for the senior running back, and that Beck won’t reach his full potential until he gets into a collegiate lifting program.

Beck posted a list of his top three college choices to his personal Twitter page on Sept. 14, 2017. The finalists include UNC, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh. Even though anticipation is building, Beck says that he has no timeline regarding when he will announce his commitment.

The speedster hopes that his athleticism will give him the ability to make his dreams in collegiate and professional sports come true.

“My career goals are to be successful at the division one level, maybe the NFL and to make the U.S. Olympic Team as a sprinter,” Beck said.