With 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.
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