The whispers are growing more urgent: Mayor Dwight Jones is reportedly looking at a new downtown ballpark for the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) and paying for it with funds generated by new development at The Diamond site.
Under the plan, as reported by WTVR’s Mark Holmberg, The Diamond — home to Richmond baseball for decades, first as Parker Field and then as the current facility — would be torn down along with other buildings in the area. The land would be sold to developers, who are projecting an upscale shopping complex (think Trader Joe’s) for the area. It makes some sense: what made the area a good location for a ballpark (easy freeway access) would also work for an upscale shopping destination.
The money generated by the sale or lease of land to developers would then be rolled into a new-ballpark development in the city’s Shockoe Bottom area, a move that will surely bring opposition from neighborhood activists. Paul Goldman, whose analysis helped kill Doug Wilder’s plans to bring baseball to Shockoe Bottom, now endorses the concept of using Diamond proceeds to pay for Shockoe Bottom development, saying it would be a dramatic move that would ensure Jones’s legacy as a great mayor.
None of this has been presented to the public, and it will take a big sales job by Jones to push for the Shockoe Bottom ballpark. But given the general optimism expressed last week by Eastern League Joe McEacharn, it’s pretty clear a plan centered there is gaining momentum.
RELATED STORIES: Progress made on new Richmond ballpark: McEacharn; MiLB squirrelly about new Richmond ballpark; Flying Squirrels: New ballpark still a priority; Flying Squirrels extend Diamond lease, setting stage for ballpark improvements; Experts: Downtown ballpark could revitalize Richmond; Squirrels: No plans to leave Richmond “at the present time”; Didn’t take long: Opposition rises to Richmond Shockoe Bottom ballpark site; Richmond ballpark discussion shifts back to Shockoe Bottom; Manchester in play as well; 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?
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