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Flying Squirrels at The Diamond for two more years

Richmond Flying SquirrelsThe Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) will sign a two-year lease to stay at The Diamond through 2016, as it’s clear there won’t be a new ballpark until 2017 at the earliest.

The lease won’t change much from previous years, but ownership of The Diamond is: the city is set to take it over from the Richmond Metropolitan Authority at the end of the year. The rent remains at $162,500 per season, which is the same the Flying Squirrels paid to the RMA.

Efforts to bring a new ballpark to downtown Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom have stalled; an impasse between Mayor Dwight Jones and the City Council over a funding plan has left the Flying Squirrels in limbo. And while that limbo will extend through 2016, it could possibly run longer: the new lease also has three one-year options, extending through 2019.

The Flying Squirrels led the Eastern League in attendance again in 2014, and that success may be working against the team: while it’s pretty clear there are plenty of issues with The Diamond, it’s not in bad enough shape to warrant an immediate replacement. Hence the limbo, but owner Lou DiBella says they’ll forge on with some smaller improvements for the next two years:

Lou DiBella, the president and managing general partner of the Squirrels, characterized it as “basically the same terms.” He said the lease proposal is “really no surprise since there’s no place else to go.”

“I’ve known for a while that we would be at The Diamond for the foreseeable future, and we’re going to continue to have fun at The Diamond,” DiBella said. “We’re going to be there for a couple more years; we will be doing some upgrades. We’ll talk more about that in the future.”

The team said last month that it was looking into a variety of potential upgrades to the stadium, including “improved seating, additional group space, enhanced concessions and, in general, better flow through the concourse.”

RELATED STORIES: McEacharn: Lots of “frustration” with Richmond ballpark situation; Flying Squirrels ballpark plan on hold; Richmond ballpark plan lacks council support; Deal reached on Flying Squirrels ballpark funding; Shockoe Bottom back to top site for new Flying Squirrels ballpark; Private funding of new Squirrels ballpark in the works; Flying Squirrels ballpark site under historical review; Flying Squirrels ballpark plan advances; Votes on new Richmond ballpark set to start next week; Flying Squirrels add more locals to ownership; Richmond ballpark revenues could be used for other purposes; Richmond ballpark opponents: Map used to justify location is inaccurate; Richmond purchase of Diamond: Making way for Shockoe Bottom ballpark; Alternative plan pitched for Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom: No new ballpark; Flying Squirrels lease: $1.7M annually; naming rights could lower that number; Squirrels ballpark plan include hotel, apartments, grocery; Richmond quietly positions for new ballpark; Activists: Ballpark not best use for Shockoe Bottom; Poll: Squirrels home should be built next to current ballpark; Richmond: No vote on ballpark location; Flying Squirrels: Fans don’t know what they are missing

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