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Shockoe Bottom back to top site for new Flying Squirrels ballpark

New Richmond ballpark

As quickly as it emerged, a proposed site on the Boulevard for a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark has been pulled from consideration, with Shockoe Bottom back on top as the first choice.

Suburban developers had floated a plan to build a new Flying Squirrels ballpark near the site of The Diamond as part of a larger development. We never really saw the specifics of this proposal, but it was pitched as an easy way to solve the ballpark problem, as the city already owns the land and the existing Squirrels fan base would move over.

But the proposal didn’t have any support from Richmond officials or the Flying Squirrels, as Mayor Dwight Jones continues to work on a Shockoe Bottom ballpark. His plan: work with developers on a Boulevard makeover (which would including tearing down The Diamond) and use those proceeds to fund the Shockoe Bottom redevelopment. The plan from the private developers would cherry-pick the easy part of the equation — the Boulevard redevelopment — and ignore the other part of the equation, the Shockoe Bottom redevelopment.

Meanwhile, the Shockoe Bottom plan is moving forward, as the Richmond Economic Development Authority works to acquire the land needed for the project. Per the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

A letter of intent for the “purchase” of land would be struck with Harry and Betty Loving LLC, an entity representing the family that owns most of the privately held land needed for the Shockoe stadium.

The other two agreements would be with an entity named North of Broad LLC, which would presumably represent private developers. One letter of intent would be for a “ground lease” of land necessary for the stadium’s development. The second would be with the same corporation or its “designee” for the “purchase, exchange or lease” of parcels needed for the development.

The agreements were to be struck “on such final terms as are acceptable” to the board chairman, as long as the total cost does not exceed the $79.6 million budget agreed to by the council.

The specifics of the land deal are expected to be announced this week.

Really, this is a battle of two visions. One is a vision laid out by Jones, using the economic tools at his disposal to build up Richmond, a game plan to use development money generated by the Boulevard to fund additional growth in the city core. The other vision, as laid out by the developers, calls for a suburban-friendly ballpark using the resources of Richmond. Now, when The Diamond was built, surrounding counties chipped in to build the ballpark. And, originally, the city approached the suburban counties about continuing that financial structure in an attempt to keep the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League). But when the counties decided against funding a new ballpark, they also lost any say in where  a new ballpark would be built. Suburban Flying Squirrels fans aren’t happy with the potential move into Shockoe Bottom, and the proposal by Rebkee was an attempt to keep those suburban fans happy. In the end, Jones is betting on the plan that will revitalize two areas of his city simultaneously.

RELATED STORIES: 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; 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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