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New Richmond ballpark: On or off?

Richmond Flying SquirrelsDespite the effort by Richmond business leaders to see the economic impact of a downtown ballpark, there are some worries that planning for the new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark has stalled.

Hopes were raised after 150 Richmond business leaders, part of Greater Richmond Chamber’s InterCity program, traveled to Denver to see Coors Field and the LoDo District, which was economically revitalized after construction of the ballpark. The lesson for the Richmond leaders: that a downtown ballpark can be a good investment.

Whether this impacts the debate over the parameters of a Richmond ballpark deal remains to be seen. The struggle, we’re told, is the same as before: proponents of a Boulevard ballpark (where The Diamond is now located) are disagreeing with proponents of a downtown Shockoe Bottom ballpark. The arguments are familiar to those of us working in the pro-baseball world: fans of a suburban site want an easily accessible ballpark with lots of parking, while proponents of a downtown site want an urban experience and plenty of activities before and after a game. Add in a debate over potential economic impacts connected to both sites, and you have the making of a stalemate.

Which is why there’s a little pessimism coming from team and league officials, coming on the heels of plenty of optimism just last month. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

In early April, [Eastern League President Joe] McEacharn expressed optimism about ballpark talks involving the Squirrels and the city of Richmond, but on Monday he said discussions haven’t matured.

“There are times that for every step forward, we have to take two back, and my disappointment probably comes from my feeling that we’re in that stepping-back mode,” McEacharn said.

Reached last week about the status of ballpark discussions, [Flying Squirrels owner Lou] DiBella said: “There really haven’t been many talks proceeding, and I have no knowledge of what the site is. …I can’t give you any information with any kind of certainty, which is extremely frustrating. I would suggest you call the mayor.”

RELATED STORIES: Shockoe Bottom gaining momentum as Flying Squirrels ballpark site?; 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 siteRichmond ballpark discussion shifts back to Shockoe Bottom; Manchester in play as well; Richmond: Yes, we really do intend on building a new ballparkBudget issues postpone Squirrels ballpark to 2015 at the earliestNew Richmond ballpark by 2014?DiBella: Time to start talking new ballparkFlying Squirrels throw out first offer on new ballparkBaseball returns to Richmond’s Diamond — but for how long?


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