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Richmond ballpark discussion shifts back to Shockoe Bottom; Manchester in play as well

Richmond Flying SquirrelsShockoe Bottom, the controversial area near downtown Richmond once eyed as a ballpark site, is back in the running as the potential site of a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark, as is the city’s industrial Manchester area.

Former Mayor Doug Wilder pushed Shockoe Bottom as the site of a ballpark for the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League), but it was opposed by civil-rights advocates who said the area’s former hosting of a slave-trading facility called for sensitive recognition of said history, not as a playing field for ballplayers. In addition, local counties that could be persuaded to financially support a regional facility at the Boulevard area — next to The Diamond, the Flying Squirrels’ current home — probably wouldn’t be inclined to support such an urban facility. And concerns about flooding didn’t make the site any more appealing.

However, with area counties indicating they’re not going to financially support any manner of new Richmond ballpark, the Greater Richmond Chamber and the Flying Squirrels have turned their sights to Shockoe Bottom. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“We are the Richmond Flying Squirrels. We’re going to go the route that Richmond wants to go,” said Lou DiBella, the president and managing general partner of the Flying Squirrels. “If the city and the chamber prefer Shockoe Bottom, if that’s the route that they believe is best for developing the city, then we’re fine with that.”

Whether the city believes that Shockoe Bottom is the best site remains to be seen: the Times-Dispatch report smacks of a trial balloon, with city officials not on record as being overly enthusiastic about the prospects and preferring to couch the ballpark as part of a larger development. A new Shockoe Bottom ballpark is expected to cost $50 million by the time all the site work and ballpark construction is done — remember, Shockoe Bottom is in a flood plain — and we expect to see some opposition arise. However, the good news is the city seems to be realistic about exactly who will pay for a ballpark and isn’t waiting for distant counties to contribute.

UPDATE: Apparently the Manchester area, the industrial site across the river from downtown Richmond and Shockoe Bottom, is also under consideration, according to this report.

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