Squirrels, VCU, city eyeing $60M ballpark

Diamond 1

The future of professional baseball in Richmond became a bit clearer Monday.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels, VCU and Mayor Dwight Jones’ office jointly announced the signing of an agreement yesterday afternoon to “guide the final stages of planning for a new ballpark in Richmond to be used by VCU and the Flying Squirrels.”

The so-called memorandum of understanding was signed by the Squirrels and VCU and calls for a new ballpark to be built near the current site of The Diamond to the tune of $50 million to $60 million. The team and university would be the primary users of the new ballpark and the major contributors to the cost.

Monday’s announcement does not specify the location of a future stadium, stating only that it will be close to the Diamond, but not on the city-owned 60 acres bounded by North Boulevard and Hermitage Road that the city is positioning for redevelopment.

Local reports previously said a complex that currently houses the Virginia ABC at 2901 Hermitage Road was a likely site for the ballpark.

The release didn’t offer any specific specs of the future stadium, but said it would be similar in “size, quality, programming and amenities” to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte and Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and that the facility would be used for concerts, festivals and other events, in addition to baseball.

Monday’s announcements included prepared statements from Jones, VCU President Michael Rao and Squirrels President Lou DiBella.

“This is a significant step forward for baseball in the Richmond region,” Jones said. “More importantly, it advances our efforts for economic development along the Boulevard to generate revenue for schools and city services, consistent with our longstanding goals for Richmond.”

The Squirrels would commit to stay in Richmond for a minimum of 30 years once a new ballpark is constructed. The team would pay rent of approximately $1 million annually – four times its current rent at the Diamond.

“The Flying Squirrels are excited by the progress and spirit of cooperation that is evidenced by this new agreement. We look forward to playing our games in a new ballpark, as tenants in a Boulevard area that is being economically developed to best serve the interests of our Greater Richmond community, neighbors and fans,” said DiBella.

The announcement said other parties including the state, other localities and private developers and investors may be involved in the project.

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Bert HapablapKevin RandesiGreg LingoSarah JaneczekRob Wooten Recent comment authors
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Sarah Janeczek
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Sarah Janeczek

Can someone explain what is wrong with the current stadium? I find this push to build a new stadium to be very confusing.

Chris Torre
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Chris Torre

It sits on very valuable land that the city wishes to redevelop.

Kevin Randesi
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Kevin Randesi

There’s many reasons a new stadium along with other things (mainly a new coliseum) is needed: 1. To hold baseball along with other events. The City of Richmond is losing so much in terms of revenue from concerts and sporting events, etc. that go to other areas of Virginia (Hanover, Henrico, Chesterfield, Charlottesville, Virginia Beach, etc.) instead of going to the City. That hurts local businesses and results in less tax revenue, less jobs, etc. 2. The Diamond is very unfriendly to handicapped people. When you go to the diamond, at the front-gate you’re greeted by a long set of… Read more »

Rob Wooten
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Rob Wooten

The concrete ceiling is falling apart, and its entire infrastructure is over 30 years old. It might look ok from the outside, but once you get into the weeds it is in serious trouble,

Sarah Janeczek
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Sarah Janeczek

Do we know if that assessment is based on an actual structural investigation of the building? Was a Conditions Report ever done by a structural engineer before the push to build a new stadium? I ask because reinforced concrete typically has a much longer life expectancy than 30 years, which is why it was chosen for so many municipal buildings.

Greg Lingo
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A ballpark at last, a ballpark at last, thank God Almighty a ballpark at last! But I’m still not counting my chickens…

Bert Hapablap
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Bert Hapablap

While I’d love to see a new stadium near the current site, I have serious doubts Richmond will be able to pull it off and truthfully taxpayer dollars are needed elsewhere right now. I just get a feeling that 5-10 years down the road we’ll be in another economic slump and the Squirrels will be gone for greener pastures. Richmond has always had a hard time being a sports town. Nothing wrong with that but pro sports have always struggled here, whether that be infrastructure or attendance. Maybe the city should just focus funds on schools and crime and let… Read more »

Kevin Randesi
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Kevin Randesi

I think the city has to do something. The city cannot compete with the local counties (Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield) in terms of housing and business – because these counties have substantially lower residential and business taxes/utility fees/award-winning schools, etc. I disagree that this town is not really a sports town because Richmond will support sports. Richmond has supported the Redskins at the training camp fairly well along with the Flying Squirrels. Attendance at VCU games is off-the-charts from where it used to be. Notice that the best arenas in the City of Richmond are the Siegel Center (or whatever it’s… Read more »

Bert Hapablap
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Bert Hapablap

The city is struggling with its own finances so while I’d love to see a new stadium I don’t think it’s a top priority and that’s not good news for the Squirrels. While you point out the colleges are doing well in attendance, they also have a built in fan base in regards to students and alumni. The Redskins attendance has been down year over year since opening training camp here and unfortunately not been a great ROI to the city so far. The Nascar races have seen attendance fade and a track that used to seat 110k is down… Read more »