With members of the Red Army in attendance, the Richmond Kickers were victorious Monday night in their bid for an ambitious plan for a long-term lease and $20 million in upgrades to the soccer team’s home field.
The Richmond City Council unanimously approved an agreement for the team to lease the city-owned City Stadium for 40 years.
The Kickers would lease the stadium, which sits on 22 acres at 3301 Maplewood Ave. just south of Carytown, for a nominal fee, while paying for all upkeep, utilities and taxes.
The agreement then calls for the team to make $20 million in upgrades in three phases running through 2050. Details and exact specs of the upgrades, as well as exactly how the team will fund the project, are still in the works.
The Kickers have said the plan is to keep and build onto the bones of the existing structure to create a modern facility and build on the team’s recent momentum.
Playing in the United Soccer League – which acts as a minor league to Major League Soccer – the Kickers have experienced a bump in attendance in recent years, including a new high in average attendance of 4,000 fans at home games in the 2016 season.
The team, owned by the nonprofit Richmond Kickers youth soccer club, sees the upgraded facility as a vehicle for increased revenue in the form of sponsorships, such as on-field signage and naming rights to the stadium, as well as increased ticket revenue by offering fans a better experience.
The Kickers have played their home games at the nearly century-old, 22,000-seat stadium since 1995. It currently has a permit from the city to play there. The city has said the property is in need of major improvements, but no such funding is currently planned or budgeted.
The lease agreement’s first phase of upgrades includes around $385,000 of improvements to landscaping, fencing, the parking lot, seating, the field and irrigation, to be completed by 2020.
The next two phases would improve everything from the concourse, signage, stadium lighting and restrooms by 2030, and larger changes to parking, a press box, additional seating, mini-fields and Futsal courts and other measures by 2050.
Also initially on the evening’s agenda was a planned vote to sell for $3.95 million a city-owned parcel between East Grace and Franklin streets and North Sixth and Seventh streets to a development group that’s eyeing an $86 million mixed-use tower on the site.
But the vote was continued until Jan. 9 at the request of Councilman Charles Samuels, who asked to have it put off until new the new class of council members, including incoming Mayor Levar Stoney, take their seats next month.
That deferral will give mayor-elect Stoney a high-profile decision to reside over in his first city council meeting.
As initially conceived, the tower could rise as high as 18 stories and would include at least 372,000 square feet of commercial and residential space above an 800-space parking deck and 28,000 square feet of retail space.
A request from the city’s planning and economic development departments to declare the city-owned properties surplus and sell them to an entity led by local developer Robert Englander already received an endorsement from the planning commission.
Another City of Richmond mistake. They simply don’t know how to leverage their assets.
The City Council should have held off until the new Mayor is in office.