Kickers spotlight first leg of City Stadium improvements

From left: Rob Ukrop, Levar Stoney, Stephanie Lynch, Andreas Addison, Kickeroo. (Michael Schwartz)

With its season opener set for later this month, the Richmond Kickers are unveiling the first of many improvements planned for its home turf south of Carytown.

The soccer club is finishing up work to improve the lighting, irrigation and sightlines in City Stadium at 3201 Maplewood Ave.

Club Chairman Rob Ukrop was joined Monday by Mayor Levar Stoney, and City Council members Stephanie Lynch and Andreas Addison, to announce the upgrades, which are scheduled to be completed ahead of the Kickers’ 2020 season opener on March 28.

The work is part of a 2016 agreement the team struck to lease the city-owned stadium for 40 years and gradually pump $20 million into improving the 91-year-old facility. The first round of renovations total $2 million.

The City Stadium is in the process of undergoing renovations and is slated to be completed by the end of the year. (BizSense file photo)

“You could’ve kept those dollars in your pocket or done something else (like) pay the players — who knows,” Stoney said. “But you chose to improve the experience right here.”

Ukrop, who is part of the group that purchased the soccer club for an undisclosed amount about a year ago, said the terms of the city lease required them to spend about $400,000 to improve the stadium by the end of 2020.

“We’re ahead of schedule, which is nice, but we want to make it better every year,” he said. “We want to create this incredible atmosphere where people will come out and take a chance on us.”

The Kickers play in USL League One, and its matches are televised on local CBS affiliate WTVR and ESPN’s streaming service ESPN+. Ukrop said the new LED lights will improve the broadcast quality.

“The lighting hadn’t been replaced since 1994. Now it’ll really pop on TV, which is really important for us,” he said.

Ukrop said the other renovations nearing completion include burying some telecom lines, removing poles near the stands and improving the grass field’s irrigation system.

Other planned upgrades include improving the main concourse, press box, signage and parking lots, as well as adding Futsal courts and minifields around the stadium.

This season, the Kickers’ home matches will start typically at 6:30 p.m., which is earlier than in previous years. Ukrop hopes this will draw more millennials and younger fans to games.

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David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 year ago

Overall great job so far, but please get better bathrooms! Definitely glad it did not go for single-family development like one council member wanted.

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
1 year ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

I would have rather seen it sold off and used for whatever, with the money going to the city schools or such. That’s a big give away to the Kickers

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 year ago

The Kickers are renting it, maintaining it and improving it. With all the demolition that would have to be done to use it for another purpose the City would have likely had to give it away (especially if they wanted someone to develop SF). Whereas, the Kickers provide an affordable amenity to the City and the surrounding region and the City no longer has to pay to maintain the property (unlike the coliseum). Additionally, they bring in other activities like the state football finals, farmer’s market and other special events.

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
1 year ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

nonsense. Those acres are worth a lot. Demo cost isn’t even close to their value. The math doesn’t even come close to working out.

It’s the exact same as the Coliseum. A giveaway to a sports team some like, and a waste of city resources

Carl Keane
Carl Keane
1 year ago
Reply to  David Humphrey

I could not agree more, David! My wife and I live nearby and we go to the farmer’s market every weekend when it’s in season. Glad the stadium was saved. And before the hill shills swoop in and bomb us with their predictable comments, I would like to commend Stephanie Lynch for the hard work she has done in my neighborhood. Her and her friend went door to door during the campaign and politely listened to me and my neighbors’ concerns. Though I am a Trump supporter, I voted for her because I opposed Navy Hill. My elderly African-American neighbor,… Read more »

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
1 year ago
Reply to  Carl Keane

I can see why you would oppose Navy Hill. I wasn’t necessarily in favor of it myself. But opposing it, and liking the city stadium giveaway just sounds like pure hypocrisy.

E.G. Bosch
E.G. Bosch
1 year ago

The Kickers provide extremely affordable family entertainment at a historic location. The virtue-signalers are going to go full cliché and talk about $ to schools.. blah blah, but there is a serious lack of civic space in our modern built environments. The Kickers draw crowds across all socioeconomic, cultural, and ethnic strata-such is the allure of football. Bands, food trucks, donation services-they offer it all. Perhaps if more people supported the oldest US football team and enjoyed a match they would recognize what the organization offers the community. Here’s hoping that one day City Stadium can be an entertainment hub:… Read more »

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
1 year ago
Reply to  E.G. Bosch

sounds great, but the city shouldn’t be paying for it.

David Humphrey
David Humphrey
1 year ago

Once again, the City is not paying for it. They did a long term lease to Kickers and the Kickers are paying for all the upgrades, which will then be turned over to the City at the end of the lease if they do not sign a new one. City does not have to pay for upgrades or maintenance. And on top of that I believe, but could be wrong on this one, the City gets to use it for football games so they don’t have to pay for lights at the high schools. So tell me again what the… Read more »

E.G. Bosch
E.G. Bosch
1 year ago

of course not, the city should only be providing corporate welfare and tax write-offs to companies that do not honor a social contract with the true city: the inhabitants

Kevin Randesi
Kevin Randesi
1 year ago

“You could’ve kept those dollars in your pocket or done something else (like)….” that sounds like every single deal that the city has negotiated with private development/sports teams/etc. (ex: Stone Brewery, Washington Redskins/Bon Secours).

Good to see the improvements in the stadium (and to see that tax dollars aren’t paying for it); however that stadium needs A LOT of work. Hopefully something (or someone) can come along and modernize it into a stadium that would be fit to bring more awesome events to Richmond. I don’t think $20 million will fix it up enough though.