Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones’ decision to commission a trio of firms to study the finances of a proposed Shockoe Bottom ballpark is causing many in city government to cry foul, saying the firms are being paid $100,000 to basically replicate a shelved study performed last fall for then-Mayor Doug Wilder.Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones’ decision to commission a trio of firms to study the finances of a proposed Shockoe Bottom ballpark is causing many in city government to cry foul, saying the firms are being paid $100,000 to basically replicate a shelved study performed last fall for then-Mayor Doug Wilder.
As part of the deliberations over a new ballpark in Richmond, Jones commissioned Davenport & Co. of Richmond, Chmura Economics and Analytics of Richmond, and Economic Research Associates of Washington to study whether a proposed Shockoe Bottom redevelopment will generate enough additional taxes to fund a $60-million ballpark. Developer Highland Properties originally proposed building the ballpark, but then backed off that plan and instead is arguing the city should set up a stadium authority and build the facility with tax-increment financing generated by the $363-million redevelopment.
A Richmond group is in the process of buying the Connecticut Defenders (Class AA: Eastern League) and is proposing to move the team as early as 2010. At issue is whether the team will play at a new ballpark or a renovated Diamond, the former home of the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League).
Jones defended the decision yesterday, saying the firms had the proper expertise and experience to do the job. But critics say the firms are already on record generally supporting the proposed Shockoe Bottom development and will not be able to craft an independent decision.
However, we continue to be told the conclusions about a proposed ballpark in Shockoe Bottom weren’t as sunny as some development advocates proclaim. In fact, the report refused to make a clear recommendation for a stadium authority financing a new ballpark, as proposed by the developers, pointing out that the city would lose financial contributions from surrounding counties currently received for The Diamond — money that could in theory be made up by taxes on development generated by the ballpark. But given the track record these days with ballpark development, that’s a mighty big assumption. And given the lack of information about a ballpark proposal past its base price tag, the report was inconclusive on the subject. There’s a reason why Wilder and Jones have refused to release the study or parts of it.
And we’re not sure the group has the data to perform a more advanced analysis. Sure, they can project highs and lows for revenues expected to be generated from the project given the current state of the economy. But anything more would be sheer speculation — and given the state of the economy, many in Richmond are unwilling to commit $70 million based on speculation when a renovation of the Diamond would be a much safer bet.
RELATED STORIES: Norwich approves Defenders lease transfer; Richmond to study new ballpark; Defenders ballpark lease transfer on tap for next week; new team for Norwich chosen?; 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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