With two big crowds to open the home slate — including a record attendance for the opener Friday — and optimism on the prospect of a new ballpark, the Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) are flying high in 2018.
The Flying Squirrels welcomed a franchise-record 9,845 fans to The Diamond Friday night, defeating the Reading Fightin’ Phils, 3-1. That momentum carried into Saturday night, with a crowd of 7,831 fans entertained by a 5-4 win over Reading. That put the two-day attendance tally at 17,676, with one game left in the opening grandstand.
The team certainly is on a roll, and there’s plenty of optimism on the ballpark front as well. Lou DiBella, Flying Squirrels president and managing general partner, says that discussions continue on a new ballpark next to The Diamond that would house the Flying Squirrels and VCU baseball. John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch spoke with DiBella about the effort needed to procure a new ballpark and doing business at The Diamond:
“It’s nine years later. If you would had told me we’d still be at The Diamond nine years later and I’d be this happy, I probably would have doubted it. But I am this happy,” said DiBella. “Look, we’ve put a lot of time and money and creativity into The Diamond. I think the ballpark looks better than it has looked in a long time, and for our fans, I think we continue to provide a great experience.
“Our house is the best house we can make it. I’m so proud of our staff from top to bottom. I don’t think anyone does it better in terms of providing an affordable in-stadium experience for families, for couples, for buddies, for whoever. For young and old, this is a great place to hang out and have a good time.”
DiBella said promises that were made a decade ago regarding a new ballpark “are not worth going over again,” and that he senses “a new day, a new time, a new place. … I’ve got to tell you, there were tumultuous times here for us. There was a lot of politics. It’s funny. A lot of politics seems to be gone. You see a spirit of cooperation more in this town, certainly in the circles we’re now involved with. Cooperation is really sort of refreshing, and it’s not exhausting.”
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