If you build it …

Stop studying and start building.

That was former Pittsburgh mayor Thomas J. Murphy Jr.’s advice Tuesday to an audience of real estate professionals in regards to a new baseball stadium in Richmond.

“I am not a big believer in collaboration or consensus. At the end of the day, there needs to be a grown-up in the room to make a decision,” Murphy said. “So many politicians want to be in the process and say they are studying something. You’ve been doing that with a ballpark for 10 years now, haven’t you?”

The remark elicited a round of applause at the meeting, which was hosted by the Greater Richmond Association for Commercial Real Estate and held at the Country Club of Virginia.

The Richmond Braves minor league team left Richmond in 2008 because it couldn’t get the city to assist with a new stadium. A plan that year to attract a new team with a new park, to be built in Shockoe Bottom with private and public funds, was scrapped. The Richmond Squirrels came anyway, moving from Connecticut. The team spent more than $2 million renovating the Diamond but has said publicly that they want a new stadium.

Murphy, who oversaw the simultaneous construction of a baseball stadium, a football stadium and a convention center as mayor of Pittsburgh, said a new ballpark or arena in Richmond represents an opportunity to create a vibrant district that could drive economic development.

“The challenge will be whether you have the political will to put it together,” Murphy said.

Through public and private sources, Murphy put together more than $1 billion in funds to construct two new stadiums and a convention center, which he said has contributed to Pittsburgh’s transformation from a city in decline into a one of the most livable in America. (Murphy and his projects have not been without its critics.)

“When making these decisions about building ballparks and arenas, they shouldn’t be thought of as a transaction but as a strategy. How do you use these things to create value and a place people want to be?” Murphy said.

Where that place should be is a divisive issue in Richmond. And the real estate community is no exception.

Attendees were polled electronically, with about a third saying they’d like to see a new stadium built on the Boulevard and another third saying they’d like a new stadium built downtown. The remaining third were divided among saying it didn’t matter where a new stadium was built, that it should be in the suburbs, or that a new stadium is not needed.

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10 Comments on "If you build it …"

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Ruben Foster

A new stadium is needed and I don’t really care where it goes. We have several great pro sports teams in town that need a new place to call home. The whole thing is ridiculous and I have absolutely no confidence in the Mayor’s ability to make this happen any time in the near future.

Casey Quinlan
Every success will have its critics, but Pittsburgh is a terrific example of how a Rust Belt city reinvented itself. The steel mills are long gone, but who cares? Pittsburgh is now known as a biotech hub, and has the US’s 1st LEED-certified hotel. Richmond doesn’t have traffic grid-lock, but it does have the civic development version of it: constant studying, preceded and followed by hand-wringing and NIMBY. Murhpy’s in the right of it: progress requires consensus, but someone MUST ultimately make a decision. There are plenty of power players in this town, but no real power-broker – someone who’s… Read more »
Scott Burger

Are the counties going to pitch in? I don’t trust them. Richmond City taxpayers are tired of paying for downtown projects like Center Stage that never have a good ROI.

James Hacker

Build the new stadium were it is, next to a highway and on one of the main street to downtown. I heard that the counties would put money up if the city could get there act together and for the people that think that the county people do not pay we pay every time we eat in the city with that extra meals tax of 6% and drive around looking for places to park.


Please the counties are responsible for all the problems in the city. The city is stuck with all the poverty and social issues while the selfish counties do nothing to help the region.


Is there any way we can fire our current, pandering Mayor and get a strong decision maker like Murphy in charge yesterday? Or maybe I should just move to Pittsburgh; that may be easier 🙂

I hope for the best for Richmond and can’t wait to cast my vote against our current Mayor come next year.

Brian Glass
I have written articles about stadiums since 2003 in the RTD. here are some of the issues: 1. Stadiums are NOT economic generators. 2. a new stadium should be built on the Boulevard. 3. The Richmond Flying Squirrels are willing to participate in the cost of a new ballpark.The Richmond Braves were not . 4. The Richmond Flying Squirrels have added value to the region. They are entertaining and offer families real value for the money spent. the results are in. their attendance has been terrific for the past two years. they had more than 2000 more fans per game… Read more »
John Lindner

Kudos to Brian Glass for the needed clarity. He’s pretty convincing.

Me? I could take or leave a new stadium. Give me $50 million dollars towards creating a destination that spurs economic development, makes Richmond a more culturally-attractive area, and creates tourism dollars, and I can think of about 50 things that would be more effective. The best investments aren’t “me-too” projects, but truly one-of-a-kind destinations.

Please. It’s minor league. Literally.

Rick Bishop
Nice article Al, but Tom spoke of more than just a new stadium. He emphasized the need for a vision; the need for leadership to think in terms of strategy versus transactions; that creating a great place or great places is what drives people to visit, have fun (and ultimately spend money); the need for regional cooperation, etc. The message I took away from his outstanding presentation was, “Wake up – you have all the makings of a great place (city) but you must have real leadership to get there. It will be up to the community (the people) to… Read more »
Completely agree with John, except that there some good ideas we could copy from other places. A stadium is too much of a single use project. If one is to be built, please consider other ways it can be used. We’d be better of with a state of the art Farmer’s Market or a complete overhaul of our city parks. How about shut down Grace Street downtown, create a pedestrian mall like Cville has, fill in all those gorgeous old storefronts and a build a state of the art Pavillion somewhere nearby? It works incredibly well up there. The downtown… Read more »