Private developers say they’ll finance construction of a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark near the team’s current home at the Boulevard, with details to come.
Richmond City Council officials have been briefed on the proposal though most details — including the developers — have not been made public. from Rebkee Co., a Midlothian-based development firm alreadty working on redevelopment in the Boulevard area. It’s an alternative to the plan proposed by Mayor Dwight Jones, who would sell off city land at the Boulevard area (including the current ballpark site at The Diamond) to fund $180 million of development in the city’s Shockoe Bottom area, including the new Flying Squirrels ballpark, a slave-trade memorial and other development. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Under the broad outlines of the proposal, an 8,000-plus capacity stadium would be built entirely with private money on about 10 acres of Boulevard land, Councilman Jonathan T. Baliles said. The first phase would involve a small amount of residential, retail and restaurant development. The developers also would have the option of building out the rest of the 60-acre Boulevard area that city officials believe is primed for revitalization.
Once finished, the stadium would be privately owned, Baliles said. He said it could open in April 2016, the same date as the proposed Shockoe stadium, as long as the city completes site preparation work by the end of this year….
Though all the details have not been worked out, a privately built stadium on the Boulevard offers what could be a lower-cost option in an area that many believe is a better fit for a ballpark. It also would avoid the strident opposition to the Shockoe stadium due to the area’s history as a major slave-trading market. The ongoing negotiations on the Shockoe project have seemed to focus on hurdles regarding land acquisition, while the city already owns the land on the Boulevard.
This proposal presents quite the issue for Jones and the city. On the one hand, a large Shockoe Bottom development associated with a land sale would have the potential to create the most revenue for both areas of the city. But it’s also a riskier development: letting the private sector do all the heavy lifting would appease opponents of the Shockoe Bottom ballpark but not bring in the revenue needed for other downtown development.
UPDATE: Flying Squirrels’ President & Managing General Partner Lou DiBella responds to the plan for private financing: “The Squirrels have always believed that plans for a new ballpark should be made in accordance with the best interests of the City of Richmond. Mayor Jones and his administration have determined that the Squirrels’ new home should be part of a dynamic redevelopment of Shockoe Bottom. We support the Mayor’s vision and look forward to being an anchor resident in the new Shockoe Bottom as part of this major transformation of Richmond.”
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