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Budget issues postpone Squirrels ballpark to 2015 at earliest

The Diamond, Richmond

The earliest a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark could open in 2015, as political and budgetary considerations will delay debate of a regional funding plan until 2012 at the earliest.

The issue: some of the counties in the general Richmond area expected to contribute to the funding of a new ballpark say they’re not in a position to debate any budget payments until next spring. The reason: at a time when counties are cutting back on essential services, discussions of a new ballpark will seem to represent misplaced priorities, despite the fact a new ballpark can be defended as an investment in local infrastructure. A funding plan in 2012 means design and construction in 2013 and 2014 and an opening in 2015.

Nothing’s official, of course, but with nothing on paper to commit the area counties to a new ballpark, there’s little leverage at hand for the Flying Squirrels ownership. Still, the team will certainly be looking for some financial considerations, either in rent for The Diamond or a lessened team contribution for a new ballpark.

“If the counties and political circumstances dictate that we be moving out our schedule for 2015 instead (of 2014), that’s not what we originally bargained for,” Flying Squirrels managing partner Lou DiBella told the local newspaper. “That’s a scenario that’s a big blow to the Squirrels.”

The current plan calls for a new ballpark to be built next to The Diamond, with the old ballpark eventually torn down to make room for parking and other development.

RELATED STORIES: New Richmond ballpark by 2014?; DiBella: Time to start talking new ballpark; Flying Squirrels throw out first offer on new ballpark; Baseball returns to Richmond’s Diamond — but for how long?; Baseball returns to Richmond tonight; Flying Squirrels unveil uniform designs; Flying Squirrels unveil logo, color schemes; Richmond contest yields another dreadful name; Five finalists for Richmond team name announced


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