We predicted this would happen when Shockoe Bottom was revived as a Richmond ballpark site: local proponents of a slave-trading museum don’t see baseball as an appropriate use of the historic site.
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. Now that the site has been floated as home to a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark, the same opposition reemerges.
“This is not a new issue,” Phil Wilayto, editor of the Virginia Defender newspaper, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “There have been struggles going back 10 years to reclaim the African Burial Ground and win proper respect for this area that is called sacred ground. And to see the discussion emerge for the third time about placing a commercial baseball stadium on this particular site is just astounding, and it’s not going to stand.”
Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones offered a less-than-ringing endorsement of the site, reinforcing our thought that raising Shockoe Bottom as a ballpark site was more a trial balloon than a real plan:
“We are open to options for baseball in downtown, and any further comment on a specific site would be extremely preliminary at this time. I am committed to analyzing all opportunities and making a decision within a tight timeframe.
“We will be viewing this from a business standpoint, and in addition to the historical issues you have raised, the decision matrix process will include overall project costs, time needed for final project delivery, access from interstates, economic development opportunities outside of the stadium itself, neighborhood impact and current circumstances surrounding any proposals.”
In other words: meh.
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