The expected move of the Connecticut Defenders to Richmond takes another step forward next Monday when the Norwich City Council considers a transfer of the Dodd Stadium lease. Meanwhile, a NY-Penn League team is tentatively pegged to replace the Defenders.The expected move of the Connecticut Defenders (Class AA; Eastern League) to Richmond takes another step forward next Monday when the Norwich City Council considers a transfer of the Dodd Stadium lease. Meanwhile, a NY-Penn League team is pegged to replace the Defenders as early as 2010.
The matter before the city council would transfer the Dodd Stadium lease from Lou DiBella’s Navigators Baseball, LP to Richmond Baseball Club LC. The Richmond group is seeking an Eastern League team for a new ballpark or renovated Diamond in Richmond, Va., after the move of the Richmond Braves (Class AA; International League) at the end of the 2008 season to Gwinnett County, Georgia.
Details of lease transfer are still working out. Complicating things is $300,000 in back rent owed by the Defenders to the city; it’s expected the Richmond group will need to make arrangements to settle this debt before the lease transfer is approved. If it is, the sale of the team could be finalized as early as April. A move of the team could come as soon as 2010, though that may be pushing things given the ballpark situation in Richmond. The Defenders’ lease runs through 2012, but the team could leave after this season after paying a $140,000 termination fee.
That the Defenders will end up in Richmond is a certainty, and we hear MiLB has backed off its demands for a new ballpark in the city. While a new ballpark would be the preferred route, the political reality in Richmond is that a proposed Shockoe Bottom ballpark proposal is all but dead; there’s no appetite in City Hall to divert $60 million in tax revenues from development in the area toward a new ballpark. However, there may be city development funds available for a renovated Diamond, particularly if a private developer steps forward with a proposal for the area surrounding the run-down ballpark.
So with the Defenders all but out of Norwich, what comes next? Though MiLB has been tight-lipped about plans for the market, we’re told by multiple sources the Jamestown Jammers have dibs on the market. The team currently plays at 3,000-seat Russell E. Diethrick, Jr. Park, which opened in 1941, making it the second-oldest ballpark in the NY-Penn League. The Jammers drew 48,070 fans in 2008.
RELATED STORIES: Renovated Diamond may do in Richmond; MiLB to Richmond: Show us the ballpark plan; Richmond group applies for permission to buy team; New Richmond ballpark would rely on sales-tax rebates; Richmond group says it’s close to buying team
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