With a new Shockoe Bottom ballpark plan on the rocks, Eastern League President Joe McEacharn expressed his frustration with the problems in addressing a new ballpark for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
Mayor Dwight Jones withdrew his proposal for a Shockoe Bottom plan that would sell land at the Boulevard area — currently the location of The Diamond, the team’s current home — and use the proceeds to fund a development plan that would include office, retail, a grocery store and a new Squirrels ballpark. Ironically, the Flying Squirrels would come in way behind developments when it came to being beneficiaries of the plan: a rent of $1.7 million annually would go a long ways toward addressing ballpark debt.
But the Flying Squirrels have been caught in the crossfire; Jones withdrew the proposal after it became apparent the City Council would reject it. That leaves the Flying Squirrels back at square one: playing in an outmoded facility that is literally crumbling. And that leaves McEacharn questioning how committed city officials are to addressing the team’s desires. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
“People really speak so highly of the fan base and their baseball aptitude and enthusiasm,” McEacharn, the EL president since 2003, said of Richmond in an interview Thursday. “People from outside the community, or people from outside (the) immediacy of trying to get a stadium deal done, can’t understand it. They simply say, ‘Those fans love it. They’re so enthusiastic. I don’t understand why they can’t get a stadium deal done.’
“I usually follow that with, ‘I don’t understand why they can’t get a stadium deal done, either.’ ”…
McEacharn said he respects what the mayor is attempting to do, but from the league’s perspective, “there’s a lot of frustration, a lot of disappointment — disappointment not in any one individual, but disappointment that (the Richmond) community remains so divided.”
The next step remains uncertain. There’s no doubt The Diamond is a subpar facility: built quickly of concrete and rebar, it sports narrow concourses, poor accessibility and plenty of water damage. Unless we’ve missed something, there’s been no study of how bad things are at The Diamond: perhaps something concrete about the facility’s future would generate some action by the city.
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