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Squirrels: No plans to leave Richmond “at the present time”

The Diamond, Richmond

Sounding an ominous note, reps from the Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Eastern League say there’s no plan to leave Richmond “at the present time,” as the team girds for what’s sure to be a contentious ballpark quest.

The team will end the season leading the Class AA Eastern League in attendance, but seemingly no closer to a new ballpark — and probably losing a little ground with area counties walking away from a potential ballpark funding formula. Indeed, with Henrico and Chesterfield counties walking away from any consideration of ballpark funding because of a lack of communication with Richmond, it seems like things are in a little worse shape now than a year ago, when there seemed to be a consensus on a replacement ballpark next to the team’s current home, The Diamond. Currently, the city is floating the idea of a Shockoe Bottom ballpark locationa site that’s already generating opposition from the African-American community because of the site’s history as a slave-trading center — and no funding plan has emerged past an initial contribution from the city.

So you’d excuse the Flying Squirrels a little slack if a little frustration goes public. The city’s ineffectiveness at addressing a ballpark solution drove the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League) from town, and there’s the chance it could do the same to the Flying Squirrels. It’s probably no coincidence that the same message was conveyed to John O’Connor from the Richmond Times-Dispatch from two different sources on the question of whether the team was looking to move:

“Not now. Absolutely not now. Not in the next couple of years,” said [managing general partner] Lou DiBella. “That’s what I would say. Not now. Not in the next couple of years.”

[Eastern League President Joe] McEacharn added, “There’s really nothing to say now, but I would qualify it that I may have a lot more to say as we get into the fall here. Undoubtedly, this situation in Richmond remains a priority for us. At the present time, there is no risk of (Richmond) losing the Flying Squirrels.”

He paused, and then repeated, “At the present time.”

Not very subtle, but after watching the ballpark follies in Richmond over the last decade, we’d concede Richmond is not a market where subtlety plays very well.

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