Will this finally get done? We have a proposal from Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) and Virginia Commonwealth University for a new ballpark near the team’s current home, The Diamond.
Building a new ballpark at the 60-acre Diamond site has been discussed ever since there was talk about a new ballpark. But the current proposal would pass on this logical move and instead place a new ballpark elsewhere in the vicinity. In a joint statement, the Flying Squirrels, VCU and Jones didn’t identify a specific location for the ballpark, but the Richmond Times-Dispatch speculated it was a 20-acre site owned by the state and used as a central office and distribution center by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Reached Tuesday afternoon, Squirrels’ president and managing general partner, Lou DiBella, said he is encouraged about the latest development in the city’s ongoing ballpark debate, which over the past year have been marked by acrimonious public exchanges and accusations.
“I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been,” he said.
In a prepared statement distributed by the city, DiBella added: “This new initiative may very well serve everyone’s interests, particularly the community’s, while allowing the Squirrels to stay in our hometown. It feels like we’re closer to a solution than ever before.”
One sign that the deal may be real: the city and the Flying Squirrels ownership are extending the team’s Diamond lease to the end of the 2018 season.
As noted, building the new ballpark next to the old one is popular with residents, and a study of the best use of The Diamond site indicated broad support for that plan in a study of the best use of The Diamond presented to the City Council. However, the consultant retained by the city recommended that the entire 60-acre site be used for development. The appeal of the plan presented here: the city retains the revenue from Diamond development — long coveted for downtown development — while adding 20 acres of state land for a new ballpark.
The statement didn’t say anything about a funding plan, either, past some sort of ticket surcharge. So lots of details remains to be decided, but there is agreement on a site, anyway.
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