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Private funding of new Squirrels ballpark in works UPDATED!

The Diamond

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.”

RELATED STORIES: 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; Richmond committee: Don’t put ballpark location to vote; Richmond ballpark location may be decided by voters; 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 ballpark; Flying Squirrels throw out first offer on new ballpark


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