The multiple votes needed to approve a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark are set to start next week, but the outcome is still up in the air.
Proponents and opponents of the ballpark have been counting votes on the City Council, but with some members unwilling to commit yet to one side or another, there’s no clear indication as to whether a plan to sell land at the current Diamond site and build a new downtown ballpark in Shockoe Bottom will live or die. Mayor Dwight Jones has been pushing the plan as an economic-development advance for the city. Opponents say it’s inappropriate to build a ballpark in an area once housing the United States’ second-largest slave-trading site; some also say the city shouldn’t push a plan that benefits a private entity. (Given that the Flying Squirrels rent of $1.7 million annually covers much of the ballpark construction costs and is one of the highest rents we’ve seen paid by a ballpark tenant, we’re not so sure the second argument carries much weight.) Still, the city is wandering into some uncharted waters here, and it will take multiple votes to actually make the Shockoe Bottom ballpark development happen. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
The precise legal mechanisms for carrying out the project are not yet known, but the administration appears to be keeping the door open to a scenario in which no city-owned land in Shockoe would be sold, which would only require six of nine council votes rather than the seven long assumed to be the threshold.
The modified Shockoe development resolution, which is expected to come up for a council vote on Monday, states that land acquisition would occur “by purchase, lease or such other form of transaction as may be satisfactory to the EDA,” subject to the approval of the chief administrative officer. The administration is seeking council authorization to continue those negotiations, which would presumably result in a clearer picture of how the land deals would play out.
The first vote, as noted, is set for Monday.
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