While Richmond wrangles over a Shockoe Bottom ballpark, less controversial plans for reusing a Carytown-area stadium are beginning to take shape.
A $23.2 million multi-use arena, a four-field little league complex and a 125-home residential development are on the table for revamping the 16-acre City Stadium complex bounded by Maplewood Avenue, McCloy Street and Freeman Road near Carytown.
With several proposals in hand and a public input period coming, stadium users and area neighborhood groups are weighing the potential redevelopments.
“Our board is still trying to digest all of this information. My personal feelings: I’d love to see residential there, because I think it’s the least impact,” said Paige Quilter, a Carillon Civic Association board member. “As for the overall scheme of things, we’re very pleased with the direction this is going.”
The City Stadium reuse recommendations are the result of two city-commissioned studies: one exploring sports-related redevelopment at the site and another specifically excluding athletics.
The first study, taken up by Chicago-based Hunden Strategic Partners, suggested a $23.2 million indoor multisport stadium for the 20 acres below the “old and generally obsolete” City Stadium and a nearby parking lot.
|Hunden Report scenarios||Square feet||Seating||Cost|
|Indoor athletic arena||84,000||4,000||$23.2M|
|Recreation center with acquatics||84,000||500||$27M|
|Little league fields||167,400||1,000||$7.2M|
|Soccer, football, lacrosse fields||225,400||1,000||$9.9M|
|Professional soccer stadium||76,275||6,500||$22.7M|
The project as outlined in the report would have 4,500 retractable seats and a footprint similar to the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center, a city-owned 73,000-square-foot North Boulevard facility that will find itself in the path of ballpark bulldozers should Mayor Dwight Jones’s proposed Shockoe stadium plan see the light of day.
Hunden recommended the indoor arena as its highest redevelopment priority for the site, followed in priority by a $7 million little league baseball field complex, a four-field outdoor soccer, lacrosse and football proposal, and a new professional soccer stadium.
Hunden concluded that an indoor facility could be used to lure regional tournaments and high school showcases, while an outdoor complex would have virtually no potential to attract such events.
Corey Peterson, Richmond Regional Tourism’s director of sports development, said the indoor facility is the most attractive of the proposals, although any stadium-type development could boost sports tourism. Peterson said that Henrico has ample baseball and soccer facilities and that Richmond Regional Tourism brought 12,000 visitors to Chesterfield for a lacrosse tournament last year.
If the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center is demolished, however, Peterson said the need for a new multipurpose center would become “critical.”
“We have such a great base of track events, basketball events that have historically been run in there,” he said. “We want to do basketball and wrestling and other indoor events at the same level that we are doing lacrosse currently.”
The sticking point for any large-scale, spectator-oriented, indoor stadium is parking. Hunden suggested at least 1,400 new parking spaces will need to be built into an Arthur Ashe-like complex.
The Richmond Urban Land Institute took on the second study, which ordered redevelopment plans without any sort of sporting facility. The ULI came back with three suggestions, all centered on residential development, and presented those findings in October.
Its first proposal called for a single-family project with 75 to 125 detached homes or between 120 and 180 townhouses, although the report noted this would not maximize the land’s value to the city.
Alternative plans included a senior living campus and an apartment complex dubbed “The Bowl,” which would add 500 apartments and 10 or 20 single-family homes.
The ULI suggested a target home price of $120,000 for the development. They also noted that multifamily development might not be feasible because developers would struggle to profit from building new apartments in the area.
The ULI study ruled out a shopping center, high-density office complex, parks and warehouses early in the process. Quilter said the neighborhood was happy to see a retail use eliminated.
“The one thing that was resounding, out of every single meeting I’ve sat in, is that no retail should go on that property,” she said.
Regardless of which plan the city might choose, the ULI recommended the city unload the property as soon as possible to capitalize on a favorable market.
City Stadium has functioned as a sports facility since its construction more than 80 years ago. The University of Richmond played its home football games at the site from 1930 until its new on-campus football stadium opened in 2010.
The school leased City Stadium and took care of maintenance and upkeep until its football team moved to the four-year-old Robins Stadium. Today the Richmond Kickers soccer team uses the stadium periodically, but it is not a fulltime home for any one team.
The stadium property encompasses about 16.6 acres. A second 3.4-acre parcel across Freeman Road is also open for redevelopment. The two properties are assessed at a combined $5.87 million.
The city and the surrounding neighborhood associations are seeking public input on the plans, and public workshops are scheduled for Feb. 17 and March 1.
City Stadium currently has very little impact on the neighborhood, Quilter said. She said she would not be opposed to a continued stadium use, so long as the development’s size does not crowd the area with spectators the building cannot hold.
“I’ve lived here 51 years, 52 years now, and it is so wonderful to sit in your backyard on a Friday and Saturday and hear those games going on,” she said. “The problem with keeping it a stadium is to get the size stadium they need – there is no parking.”
Turn it over to VCU and their football (club) team can continue to play there and maybe someday play in the big leagues…
Replacing Arthur Ashe is essential regardless of the future for the Boulevard. It would be wise for the City of Richmond to make good use of a regional void with a multipurpose center, just please make it a huge upgrade over the current facility — and if it is named for Ashe, please make it worthy of his name!