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DiBella: 2025 now drop-dead date for new Flying Squirrels ballpark

The Diamond Richmond

The end date has changed over the years, but not the sentiment: Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A Northeast) president Lou DiBella says 2025 is now a drop-dead date for a new ballpark to replace The Diamond.

To say that the pursuit of a Diamond replacement has been one of the longest-running sagas in Minor League Baseball is an understatement. Even before DiBella’s group moved the Connecticut Defenders (Class AA; Eastern League) to Richmond from Norwich in 2010, a new ballpark replace the deficient Diamond was a goal for many in the sport. That pursuit has intensified since MLB’s takeover of MiLB, as it’s clear that the deficiences in the Diamond are especially glaring at a time when MLB is insisting on upgraded facilities across the board.

So we return once again to the long-suffering John O’Connor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who has written and rewritten this story fifty or so times, probably, as DiBella says there’s a deadline of sorts in place where the team needs to have a new home or possibly lose its Professional Development License. At one point in the MiLB reorg there was a last-minute plea from the Washington Nationals to consider Richmond as a Triple-A market, but the condition of The Diamond, coupled with opposition from multiple MLB teams whose tentative plans for a farm system would have been upended, scuttled that request. So we have the San Francisco Giants operating out of The Diamond again in 2021 and for the near future. From the Times-Dispatch:

“I think positive momentum continued under the worst circumstances,” DiBella said during the Flying Squirrels’ season-opening homestand, which began Tuesday and closes Sunday. “I’m pleased in the direction we’re heading.”

VCU and the Double-A Flying Squirrels are collaborating on the construction of a ballpark along Hermitage Road on property adjacent to The Diamond. The organizations would share the stadium, projected as the centerpiece of the VCU Athletics Village, which will also include a tennis complex, a track, a soccer stadium, practice fields, a field house, and parking, according to Richmond 300, a city government organization that provides a guide for growth leading into Richmond’s 300th birthday in 2037.

“We need to be playing in a new stadium no later than 2025. Period,” said DiBella. “I’m more optimistic than I’ve ever been that’s happening. I think everybody knows the stakes and I don’t think anybody wants us to go anywhere.

”So I think the timing is right. It needs to be right. There is no alternative.”

Indeed. And there are hints we could see some sort of announcement in coming weeks about the status of the new-ballpark project, though it’s been five years since the Flying Squirrels and VCU signed an original MOU on a new ballpark.

RELATED STORIES: Will Flying Squirrels soar in the New Year?;  New Flying Squirrels ballpark tied to VCU development; Groundbreaking Marks Step to Clear Possible Richmond Ballpark SiteNew Richmond Ballpark Could Anchor VCU Athletic ComplexVCU Includes Off-Campus Ballpark in Master Plan

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