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Flying Squirrels present new-ballpark prototype

Proposed new Richmond ballpark

During a public discussion of the future of baseball in the city, the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) unveiled their concept for a new ballpark to be built next to The Diamond.

The Flying Squirrels are pitching a 6,000-seat ballpark with room for 3,000 more on plenty of berm seating (something totally missing at The Diamond), a brick facade, wraparound concourse, a right-field party deck with tiered seating and 20 suites. The projected cost: $50 million.

The Flying Squirrels have been working with Populous on a new-ballpark design that owes a lot to Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League). No surprise there: Chuck Domino is both president of the IronPigs and chief executive manager of the Flying Squirrels.


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But even without the IronPigs connection, emulating Coca-Cola Park would be a sound strategy for Domino, Parney and crew: Coca-Cola Park is a heckuva ballpark, certainly one of the top five in Minor League Baseball. We were very impressed when it opened; here’s a sample of what we said:   

Like virtually all new ballparks, Coca-Cola Park features a wraparound concourse, outfield berm seating, and a second level on the grandstand for suites and club seating. No surprises there. The ballpark does feature one twist on luxury seats that we think will be copied in new ballparks down the line: dugout suites. Four suites directly behind home plate and below field grade offer a stunningly intimate view of the playing field and players, putting fans closer to the catcher than is the pitcher. Three of the four suites can be reconfigured depending on the size of the group. The suites have everything you’d expect from a modern luxury box — catered food, different types of seating — plus the added advantages of unprecedented access. Putting the area below grade makes all the difference in the world: at grade would have felt intrusive, but below grades makes them feel like an oasis in a busy ballpark….

Also creating a buzz: the second-level club area, located directly behind home plate. The huge oval-shaped bar was a popular gathering spot before and during the game, with a wide variety of beers on tap (including locally produced microbrews) and mixed drinks available. Those with club-level tickets can bring food and drinks back to their seats, or they can claim one of the several tables sitting right outside the club bar. Three food stations on the club level were packed before and during much of the game. 

There are several other group areas in the ballpark, including sponsored suite-level party porches on each end of the second level, as well as a six-row, terraced picnic area in the left-field corner. A larger and supervised kids’ play area sits in the left-field line as well, while a larger concourse leading to the main entrance sits in the right-field corner. Berm seating is next to the side-by-side bullpens down the left-field line, while bar rails are set up in right field beyond the home-run fence; this is the Trough area, popular with those buying standing-room-only tickets. It’s basically a right-field bar with plenty of high-top seating and bar rails. (It also gives you good views of both the action and the scoreboard.)

The Trough is a good example of the consistent branding in the park: many of the food stands offer some sort of pork product, and the signage all refers back to the IronPigs name. Besides the main concession stands in the concourse there are a host of stands in the inner concourse as well, while delicacies like roasted sweet corn are available at a booth in the right-field corner.

Whether or not there is enough money in city coffers to build the ballpark is another issue. While the city has budgeted $6 million for a new ballpark, other potential partners on the county level have not devoted any money to a ballpark. Funding a baseball facility has always been a big problem in Richmond: the Times-Dispatch’s John O’Connor has a nice look at the financial issues. We’d recommend checking out that story and then reading through the many stories the Times-Dispatch prepared on the past and future of baseball in Richmond: it’s a comprehensive look at a community struggling to make baseball work in rough financial times.

RELATED STORIES: Richmond: Yes, we really do intend on building a new ballpark; Budget issues postpone Squirrels ballpark to 2015 at the earliest; 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

Rendering courtesy of the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Populous.


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