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Ballpark debate heats up in cyberspace

Al Harris February 4, 2009 2

braveThe debate over a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom has hit the World Wide Web.

Charlie Diradour, president of Lion’s Paw Development Company, recently launched the site Baseball on the Boulevard as place for the Richmond community to discuss the many different sides of the prospect of a downtown stadium.

“The site in and of its self is a platform for people to vote on the Bottom side or the Boulevard side of the issue and make their opinions known,” Diradour said.

Diradour is adamantly opposed to the proposal by Highwoods Properties to build a multi-million dollar sports entertainment complex in Shockoe Bottom, a portion of which will be financed by the City of Richmond.

He said the Diamond should be replaced and a ballpark built there.

“On the Boulevard you already got some mixed use development starting to occur, why don’t we take that momentum and build a baseball stadium there?”

Intial reaction on the site has been exactly what Diradour expected. He said the comments so far are mixed fifty-fifty between people that are strongly on one side or the other.

Diradour also set up a group on Facebook yesterday called “I Support Baseball on the Boulevard”, which so far has 87 members. (Another Facebook group called “I Support Baseball in Shockoe Bottom” has 519 members, but has existed for a longer period of time.)

“I‘ve been called anything from a wolf in sheep’s clothing because I am developer, to garnering thanks for putting the site up,” Diradour said.

Diradour’s company Lion’s Paw Development primarily does restaurant and retail development in The Fan, Near West End, and North Side. Last year his company completed the renovation for Delux Restaurant on West Main Street.

To join the discussion visit http://www.baseballontheboulevard.com

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  1. Brian Glass February 5, 2009 at 11:14 am - Reply

    I would like to state from the outset that I have no economic interest with regard to the location of the ballpark( new or renovated), except as a taxpaying citizen of the City of Richmond.

    I attended the first meeting of RBI ( Richmond Baseball Initiative) in 2003, as an invited guest.One of the questions that I asked the architect from Memphis was: Can you diocument the economic development that resulted from the new downtown stadium? His answer was NO.

    For those of you who care to remember the RMA had negotiated a new 10 year lease with the R Braves which included the renovation of The Diamond ( an 18 year old facility),at the cost of $18.5 million dollars. When RBI stepped to the plate with their new stadium idea, which was supported, behind the scene by a high ranking city official, the deal fell apart. Some of the proponents for the new Shockoe Bottom Ball Park are from the original RBI group.

    It would have cost the city one third of the cost since Henrico and Chesterfield Counties were part of the financing ( remember Regional Cooperation?), using the same formula that paid off the original bonds on time. So we would have had the R Braves until 2013 at a cost of approximately $6.5 million dollars, with very little risk for the City of Richmond ( ie: The taxpaying citizens)

    Now you can talk all you want about the financing, but two things are certain: There has not been a new stadium built that has been on budget and none of the stadiums have been economic generators. This isn’t my opinion , it is factually documents by two professors,Kevin Delaney and Rick Eckstein in a book titled “Public Dollars,Private Stadiums,” published by Rutgers University Press. The price is $23.95 and I don’t receive a penny if you buy the book. In fact the authors don’t even know me.

    One example in this book that strikes a cord for Richmond is Coor’s Stadium in the LODO section of Denver which is comparable to our Shockoe Bottom, although slightly larger. While the stadium has been a success nine years later the economic development that was projected never materialized. In fact the development that did take place was as far away from the stadium as possible. The plan that was put in effect was to use a sales tax. Restaurant workers in restaurants that existed before the stadium was built didn’t want to work on game days ” because their regular customers often stayed away.” The comments go on and on.

    In short, proponents of all of the stadiums noted in this book painted rosy pictures of revenue forcasts that simply didn’t happen, and these stadiums were built when the economy was not in a severe recession.

    The stadium should not be an emotional issue. should be a factual issue, and future projections are simply not “facts.” Here is the bottom line..if someone can show me a scenario that has really worked I might be willing to change my mind. In the six years that I have followed this issue no one has.

    This shouldn’t be a PR campaign. It’s a dollar and sense issue for the City and its citizens.

  2. Brian Fowler February 8, 2009 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    I’d like to point out that although the Shockoe Bottom Facebook group has existed for a longer period of time, since the Boulevard group appeared the Shockoe group has grown at the same, if not a greater pace than the Boulevard group. The Shockoe Bottom group was also started by an individual who is not a real estate developer, not affiliated with ACORN or any other group with a stated position (Mr. Diradour is), and who has no financial interest in either location, other than as a citizen and taxpayer of the City of Richmond.

    We welcome Mr. Diradour’s group to the debate, but the real story here is the independent, vocal support that exists for this project that did not exist with the proposal several years ago. The opposition has always been vocal….that is nothing new.

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