Virginia Commonwealth University and city officials unveiled preliminary plans for a 100-acre development that will include a new Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A Northeast) ballpark costing between $80 million and $100 million.
The new development, located near the team’s current home, The Diamond (shown above), would be a partnership between VCU and the city of Richmond. VCU is developing a 40-acre Athletics Village, but the ballpark–to be shared by the Flying Squirrels and the VCU baseball team–would be part of the city’s 60-acre development, anchoring a mixed-use development. While both VCU and the city are looking for a long-term development that could take five years or more to achieve, the ballpark would be prioritized as a catalyst for the mixed-use development.
The Flying Squirrels are under somewhat of a deadline to have a new-ballpark plan achieved by 2025 or so. The team made the cut from 160 MiLB teams to 120 not because of The Diamond, but rather because the assumption is that a new ballpark would be developed. The Washington Nationals had expressed interest in elevating the Flying Squirrels to Triple-A status when the minor leagues were reshaped, but the proposal was made late in the planning stages, after Washington had already committed to a relationship with the Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A East). The proximity of Richmond to Washington is certainly an enticement toward such a shift once a new ballpark comes online.
Part the potential price tag and the general timeline for the creation of both the Athletics Village and the wider development, a press conference today featuring VCU VP/AD Ed McCormick and Richmond economic development director Leonard Sledge featured plenty of goals, but specifics on the most important issues, such as how this development will be funded. From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
Sledge reiterated the city’s position that by the end of the year, “there will be a request for interest out on the street. And it’s our goal and objective to generate as much interest from the development community to respond to that opportunity because, again, it is a significant opportunity.”
The timeline for ballpark completion will become clearer following that process of determining a development team for the area that will include the ballpark, according to Sledge. He said he was unable at this time to provide stadium cost or capacity estimates, or a financing plan….
Sledge said he did not have the answer yet as to whether the ballpark would be owned by the city or VCU as part of the Athletics Village.
This is an optimistic plan, to be sure, and an aggressive one. Developing a 100-acre site and finding the funds for a $80-$100 million ballpark will be a huge challenge, to be sure. Still, this is the most tangible step for a replacement for The Diamond that we’ve seen in a long time.
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