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Richmond ballpark solution stalled; will counties help?

Richmond Flying SquirrelsWith Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones seemingly stalled on a plan for a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark, officials from local counties say they’re willing to discuss a replacement of The Diamond.

The Diamond was built with the participation of the counties surrounding Richmond, with the site designed to be accessible to both city dwellers and suburbanites. And certainly there have been plans to build a new ballpark at The Diamond site, going back to the days when the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League) were seeking a new facility.

The game plan from Jones, however, has been to build a new ballpark in downtown’s Shockoe Bottom area — a plan that ends up cutting off participation from surrounding counties, as the perception is that the new ballpark will predominantly benefit Richmond citizens. But with that plan stalled, officials from surrounding counties say they’d be willing to consider any new-ballpark proposals near The Diamond — if Jones and city officials present them with a plan, especially a plan that combines a new ballpark with private investment. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

“That’s one question I think I would have as a representative of Chesterfield,” said Steve Elswick, chairman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors. “What happened to the private investors’ option?”

“Depending on what happens and when, I think you could see a public-private partnership effort, and that would be a boon,” said Virgil R. Hazelett, a former Henrico County manager who currently represents Henrico on the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Hazelett said a public-private partnership could “go a long way toward getting it done very, very quickly.”

There was a proposal from Rebkee Co. to develop in the Boulevard area, including a new ballpark. But much like Jones’ Shockoe Bottom plan, that proposal didn’t go anywhere.

That a new ballpark is being discussed favorably by Chesterfield and Henrico county officials is good news; that there’s the potential for private investment is even better news. The Flying Squirrels are stuck between a rock and a hard place: the team is immensely successful playing in a facility that’s falling down, which means there’s no sense of urgency and no ability to press the issue.

RELATED STORIES: Will 2015 finally see Richmond ballpark solution?; Flying Squirrels announce ballpark upgrades; Flying Squirrels at The Diamond for two more years; McEacharn: Lots of “frustration” with Richmond ballpark situation; Flying Squirrels ballpark plan on hold; Richmond ballpark plan lacks council support; Deal reached on Flying Squirrels ballpark funding; Shockoe Bottom back to top site for new Flying Squirrels ballpark; 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

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