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Richmond ballpark location may be decided by voters

Richmond Flying SquirrelsIn a sign the discussion is shifting, a plan is afoot to put the issue of a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark location to voters via referendum.

The move is significant: the assumption is that a new ballpark will be built, with the unresolved issue the location of the facility. That’s a huge step up from debating whether or not a new ballpark should be built.

The issue is the same one we’ve seen debated for years: whether Shockoe Bottom (basically downtown Richmond) or the Boulevard area (where The Diamond is currently located) should be the site of a new Squirrels ballpark. There are pluses and minuses to both areas. The Boulevard features easy freeway accessibility, free land and familiarity for local baseball fans. Shockoe Bottom features the greater opportunity for spinoff economic development, but parking would be an issue, and some want to see the site’s former use as a slave-trading center memorialized in other ways. Asking citizens what site would be acceptable in a fall referendum would solve the issue, as time is a-wastin’: the Squirrels’ lease ends in 2014.

For the Flying Squirrels, either site would be acceptable. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Richmond Flying Squirrels president and managing general partner Lou DiBella said the club doesn’t have “any problems with staying on the Boulevard if that’s the direction the community wants to go.”

“With respect to this resolution, we want a new ballpark,” he said. “We think the city of Richmond deserves it. We think the Squirrels deserve it. We think that it’s necessary.

“Our facility is antiquated and not user-friendly. We’re going to be good corporate citizens and support whatever decision is made by the city.”

In some ways we’re taking no-lose situation here: the Squirrels are still a success at The Diamond, but a Shockoe Bottom site could be a big bonus for the city in terms of generating economic growth in a depressed area.

RELATED STORIES: New Richmond ballpark: on or off?; 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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