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Governor: Richmond needs professional baseball

Richmond Flying SquirrelsVirginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe came out strongly in favor of a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) ballpark and offered to lead talks on a new facility on the Boulevard, near The Diamond.

Richmond officials are fashioning a development plan for the current Diamond site on the Boulevard, but at the present time there’s no ballpark as part of the planning. The Flying Squirrels ownership wants to keep baseball near The Diamond and have worked to be part of the development.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

In an radio interview with Richmond’s WRVA, McAuliffe said the region needs a new ballpark and suggested that warnings from the minor-league baseball team and league officials about the consequences of inaction should not be taken lightly.

“They could not make this any clearer. We cannot lose the Squirrels,” McAuliffe said. “We’re Richmond. Are you kidding me? How do you lose a ball team? Is that a good message?”

City and county officials had hoped to find a new stadium site for the team by the end of last year, but no plan has emerged. With the city moving forward with plans to redevelop the 60 acres of public land where The Diamond currently sits, the Squirrels have begun an advocacy campaign to ensure the team is part of any new development….

“I don’t want to step in where I’m not supposed to. But you know, I love Richmond. I love the Squirrels,” McAuliffe said. “Let me know, I’d love to get everybody in a room and see if we can’t hammer this out.”

In response, the team issued the following statement:

“The Richmond Flying Squirrels welcome Governor McAuliffe’s enthusiastic support for keeping the team in Richmond in a new stadium. The governor has been a great fan and we love seeing him around the ballpark. The recent public hearings have shown overwhelming support for keeping the Richmond Flying Squirrels on the Boulevard; we are grateful to all those who have rallied behind us.  We want nothing more than to work with all the interested parties to find a solution that makes that a reality for our fans.”

To say Squirrels ownership and management has been exceptionally patient is an understatement. The team has worked with Mayor Dwight Jones and former Mayor Doug Wilder on multiple ballpark plans and offering to pick up most of the tab, only to see none of the plans come to fruition. Perhaps McAuliffe has the passion necessary to make a deal possible.

RELATED STORIES: Squirrels: One season at a time; Flying Squirrels ballpark breakthrough announced; DiBella to Richmond: Time for a ballpark plan; Richmond ballpark solution stalled; will counties help?; 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

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