Before Richmond can get a new baseball stadium, it needs to put millions of dollars into renovations at The Diamond, even if the aging ballpark’s days are numbered.
That’s what Major League Baseball told the city after its latest inspection of The Diamond, which is lined up for replacement in two years as part of the city’s Diamond District redevelopment project.
For the Richmond Flying Squirrels to be able to play this spring, MLB is requiring that the city-owned Diamond be upgraded – at a cost of $3.5 million – to meet certain standards for pro baseball facilities. In addition to repairs to the concrete structure’s roof and supports, MLB is requiring construction of a second batting and hitting tunnel as well as renovations to both team locker rooms.
To finance the work, the city is allocating $3.5 million from its capital maintenance reserve fund to the current fiscal year’s capital maintenance budget. A request for the allocation goes to the City Council on Monday after passing the Planning Commission this week.
In anticipation of approval, city departments have already filed applications for building, mechanical and plumbing permits associated with the work. The permit applications put the construction cost of the batting and pitching tunnel at $1 million, heat pumps and ductwork for the locker room renovations at $400,000, and plumbing upgrades for the locker rooms at $300,000.
The building permit for the tunnel lists Dewberry Engineers, out of Danville, as the architectural engineer, and local firms Daniels & Associates as structural engineers and Lu+S Engineers as the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers.
The city’s lease with Navigators Baseball LP, the entity that owns the Flying Squirrels ballclub, requires periodic inspections of The Diamond’s structural integrity, according to a staff report explaining the funding request.
The report states that, “As in previous inspections,” parts of The Diamond’s roof support structure were “found to have concrete spalling and cracking that requires repair to maintain structural integrity.”
The report adds that MLB requires an enclosed batting and hitting tunnel for each team’s use, whereas The Diamond currently has one tunnel. Of the locker rooms, it notes “a number (of) deviations” that “must be cured to maintain MLB’s approval for the Diamond to remain as an authorized minor league facility. These deviations from minimum standards will be corrected as part of this work.”
In the early 2000s, when the Richmond Braves were the local minor-league affiliate, a football-size piece of concrete reportedly fell from a support beam into the stands during a game. Since the Flying Squirrels’ arrival in 2010, the Double-A club has invested in its own upgrades to The Diamond, including $2 million in initial renovations and, in 2016, additional features such as a right-field party deck.
Final agreements for Diamond District remain in the works
This latest investment from the city comes as administrators are finalizing definitive agreements for the Diamond District project, the $2.4 billion mixed-use development it’s pursuing with developer RVA Diamond Partners.
Minimum business terms and conditions agreed to by the parties were approved last fall, but final agreements that would include a land sale for the project’s first phase still need to be introduced and approved by City Council before work on the new stadium can begin.
It’s unclear when the agreements will be introduced. In a presentation Monday about planning initiatives that mentioned the Diamond District, city staff told the Planning Commission that work on the agreements continues.
The new 10,000-capacity stadium is expected to cost about $80 million. Developers have said such ballparks typically take about 24 months to complete, meaning construction would theoretically need to start next month for the stadium to open by April 2025, the deadline that MLB has set for all pro baseball venues to fully comply with new facility standards.
The new stadium would fill about 7 acres of the 67-acre Diamond District site, in the district’s southwest corner at Arthur Ashe Boulevard and the railroad tracks. According to the term sheet approved in September, RVA Diamond Partners would pay the city $16 million for the first-phase property, consisting of 22 acres at 2728 Hermitage Road and 2907 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.
Also needed for the project is the creation of a community development authority, or CDA, which would issue nonrecourse bonds to help finance the development using tax revenue generated over time. A form of tax increment financing, CDAs have been used on such projects as Short Pump Town Center in Henrico. A CDA also was just created for Henrico’s GreenCity project.
In addition to the new stadium, the Diamond District’s first phase would include 1,100 residential units, including lower-income units, 58,000 square feet of retail space, a 180-room hotel, structured and surface parking, a public park and related infrastructure improvements.
Minimum investment in the first phase is projected at over $627 million, contributing to a total project development cost for the entire Diamond District area of $2.4 billion. The larger development, to include a mix of office, residential, retail and hotel uses and related infrastructure improvements, is projected for completion over a 15-year period.
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Why not?? City leadership lost the Braves over this same issue. AFTER 16 years (Wilder to Jones mayors started the replacement process and it wont start until after Stoney 2nd terms ends) and three Mayor administrations we only have a conceptual agreement to replace a minor league stadium. Is that worth praising?
It’s great when monopolies and billionaires dictate how we use our tax money.
they aren’t dictating. Richmond can say “no” and lose the team. Owners of a sports league have every right to insist on minimum standards for their athletes and fans. Its up to the team’s owners or locality to decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze … of course the City has had 10 years to get the new stadium built that it promised the team to entice them to relocate here and none of this would be an issue.
Can we taxpayers force the city to bring our school buildings up to code? 🤔
Amen. Especially given the amount of money that was thrown at Schools during the Pandemic that remain unused.
If I were city management I would tell MLB to take a hike. A new stadium is coming, and we will not invest anymore in this one, with the exception of maintenance.
It’s not like we haven’t had plenty of time to build a new ballpark. I hate to see them “throw away” $3M in tax payer money but MLB has the bargaining power here, the city might not want to use up their “goodwill” since there is no way the stadium is going to be ready for 2025 opening day and they will probably have to ask for an extension.
As much as I hate to say it, if I were MLB, I would tell Richmond to take a hike. We have told them that a new stadium is coming for a long, long, long time, and never delivered. And now the city will need to spend $3.5 million for improvements that will likely be demolished very soon. And as the article noted, and several commentors, there is no way a new stadium is ready for 2025 Opening Day if it is a 24-month building project.
So we’re just going to roll over collectively? We’re already building a brand new stadium – can we not push back on the MLB and have these requests deferred instead of flushing $3.5 million down the toilet making upgrades to a facility that is going to be demolished in two years’ time? Meanwhile, our schools are literally crumbling. Incredible.
We not building anything yet. They have not even set up and CDA or tried to sell bonds. It will be 2026 season (if ever) that the new stadium comes online. And yeah funny we can find $3.5M for the Diamond but $1M for a new roof at Hill is going bankrupt the city.
Are we? I haven’t seen them start a new building. Just rode by today.
If the facility meets the building and fire code requirements for safety tell MLB to pound sand. Given the pending replacement of the facility the request is beyond ridiculous.
While I could accept that the city has responsibility for the structural integrity of the roof, the customizations of the locker room and batting tunnels should be more of a Lou DiBella problem ideally. The fact that it evidently is not just reemphasizes this is a bad business model for the city to continue to be in partner with. They should have let the Squirrels walk to the suburbs or leave…
The city should just give up, it can’t do anything right anyway. The new ball park will probably be ready in 2030, so forget the “Let’s just wait a couple of years” argument. Why not let Henrico put a ballpark in up there next to the new ice rink? That way, this $3mm can be spent on schools and the homeless.
The ice rink is going up in Chesterfield, though Henrico has a bunch of other things in the works.
You’re right. Look at Fox Elementary. OVER a year later, Nothing. Look at the eyesore that is the old Lee Monument. 2 years later, Nothing. The city can’t even agree on a landscape plan.
When a corporate entity is talking AT you on matters concerning taxpayer money that’s not rightfully theirs, it’s time to walk the other way.
The MLB cartel will be getting their stadium – they can patiently wait for it just like the rest of us.
It’s kind of silly that MLB can’ grant a waiver, given the approved replacement.
They issued the guidelines in 2020 and said all parties had until 2025 to meet the deadline. In the last 20 years RVA has not done anything but plan and talk. Why would you grant a waiver for failing at the task.
How much revenue for does the current ballpark generate for the City as opposed to how much is the cost for it being in the City? I’m speaking of pure dollars and not considering the “billboard” benefits of having a home team. I’m hearing estimates for the cost of the new park to be in the range of $90-110M, but from what I understand the developer’s contribution will be capped at a certain level and the increased taxes produced by the apartments etc will be committed to pay down the developer’s share of the debt. Any over-ride on the cost… Read more »
so the city should give up on a baseball team like they gave up on a coliseum that will now move to henrico? and do what … let me guess, build more apartments. no thanks.
People in apartments pay property taxes and sales taxes. A stadium costs $70-90 million, pays no property taxes, and the sales taxes don’t go into the general fund but rather just towards making a small dent in the stadium debt servicing. I’m not familiar witht he rent the squirrels would pay but I know in DC the Nats only paid $5MM/yr on a $800MM stadium so the rent typically never comes close to making a dent in the cost. The other kicker being even the remaining buildings in the “Diamond District” will probably have their taxes siphoned off in TIF… Read more »
There’s a lot of rational thought there although it ignores the unquantifable benefits of having having sports teams in in cities. And I could potentially be persuaded by all that ….if the City hadn’t promised the Squirrel that they would build them a new stadium as an inducement for them to leave their prior home and bring the team to Richmond. Right or wrong, Richmond made the promise and needs to fulfill it. Had they done on any reasonable timetable they wouldn’t need to pay what is in essence a penalty for not delivering the stadium on time.
Agreed. The City has made many broken promises regarding this stadium and team. Now they are literally paying the price.
So now the City of Richmond is going to pay $3.5 million to make improvements on a stadium that will be gone in 2 years. On top of that – spend $70+ million to build a new stadium for the Squirrels – because eventually it will be figured out that the tax-increment financing will be nothing more than a big lie which will put the taxpayers on the hook to pay it off. Sounds like normal business at City Hall! Richmond residents – get ready for another tax increase to pay for this!
Bruce: I never have heard the numbers $90-110 million that you mentioned for the replacement cost of the Diamond. The highest that I’ve heard is approximately $70-75 million. Of course this could have been done for approximately $45-50 million 6 or 7 years ago .There’s an old adage that says ” if you snooze, you lose.” It’s the end of February…. In order to make the “necessary ” repairs and improvements by opening day they should have started “yesterday.” In all probability there will be overtime involved in order to meet the deadline. City inspectors need to be put on… Read more »
Swing batter batter, swing! Don’t get me wrong, I’m root, root, rooting for the home team here but Richmond didn’t knock it out the park on this one. For its one, two, three strikes, your out, at the old ball stadium.
Richmond… if you enjoy ‘minor league’ sports, concerts, entertainment, lifestyle, etc. then you will love it here
Lay on what was built 50 or 100 years ago and do nothing but have meetings about What? More Nothing. Just nonsense until it all crumbles into sweepable pieces that actually get swept up. Please just use the tax money on education, yes schools, teachers and pratical learning. $1 Dollar can buy a used masterpiece book, not even a nail in some dream of useless meetings at City Hall.
Nuts and bolts people, such as functionable governance, right next door there is an example, it is called Henrico County.
Yet another reason municipalities like Richmond should reconsider owning entertainment venues. If the financial upside exists then the free market will do the heavy lifting.
Let’s keep in mind that taxes are paid on every ticket sold, on food sales,( meals tax), as well as parking. Furthermore, it’s undeniable that the Richmond Flying Squirrels have been a beneficial corporate citizen. Nutzy and Nutasha have been everywhere. This is as close to a major league team that Richmond has gotten, other than the Kickers. A major arena is no longer an option, and the City made a major mistake in basically giving away City Stadium to the Kickers. This is probably a final chance, although a costly one, for the city to have a long-lasting professional… Read more »
Agreed. Hopefully we take lessons learned and make choices we will thrive from. Just hope we learned from our past mistakes.
Im kind of surprised RVA never made a bid to have the football team from Washington build their stadium here.
They talked about Richmond and Alexandria as places in 1992 under Gov Wilder. Neither worked for Dan (not enough tax dollars committed) so he moved to Maryland.
Snyder didn’t build FedEx, jack Kent Cooke built it , and t’s in MD because he was trying to pull people away from Baltimore when the colts were gone and the ravens hadn’t been put in place.
Yes, according to the City financials between $500k-$600k come in every year from all those taxes. That means it takes 6 years to get enough revenue to cover the improvements. The Diamond just makes enough revenue to cover its general operating/maintenance costs. It never makes enough to cover substantial improvements. A new stadium and its related items won’t see a revenue increase.
Really? what else were they going to do with City Stadium? No snark, seriously asking.
Good thing Stoney (and his “crew”) spent our tax $$$ taking out pointless statutes nobody cares about (but it feels good & it’s state money..barf). Also let’s not retrofit an aging school with a functioning sprinkler system to let that go up in flames. Now we have to pay for the Fox rebuild. Let’s collectively vote for common sense next time. My guess is he’ll continue to raise taxes to pay for his “endeavors.”
LOL the people of Richmond rose up and demonstrated for a whole summer to get the Monuments to treason taken down. Did you just recently move here?
Ed, we did but we never asked for a political crony of the mayor to get a no-bid contract to do it. City and state could have bid work together at min; state got BIDS for Lee Monument.
Everybody could care less about the statues except the people who “rose up.” Back the schools, don’t raise taxes, help the poor, feed the homeless, fix the diamond instead of wasting” feel good” money on the treasoners. The guy is buying votes. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
We need to combine the counties surrounding the city with the city itself. The city on its own is not able to raise tax dollars for any project and its simply failure after failure. The only two other cities outside of Virginia that are independent cities and not combined with the wealthier counties around it are: Baltimore and St. Louis. Quite possibly the two worst cities in the country. The city will continue to struggle until this happens.