City gets first look at new Diamond District ballpark design

BallparkDesign1a Aerial

The new ballpark would rise just south of The Diamond (pictured at right), between Sports Backers Stadium and the railroad crossing along Arthur Ashe Boulevard. (City documents)

The new design team that’s now driving the Diamond District ballpark has provided the City of Richmond with a first look of the stadium that would replace The Diamond.

Schematic designs for the new stadium that would anchor the larger Diamond District mixed-use development were recently submitted to City Hall and obtained by Richmond BizSense through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The designs, which are preliminary and subject to change, provide a picture – several, in fact – of what the new ballpark would look like and how it would fit into and interact with the larger development.

BallparkDesign3 Club

The 10,000-seat stadium would feature upper-level suites above concourse seating.

The designs show what’s described as a 10,000-seat stadium with upper-level suites above open-air seating and various amenities around the entirety of the ballfield, including an outfield play area for kids and families, terraced lawn seating, a beer garden, party deck, barbecue picnic area, and an east-side main entrance opening out to the Diamond District’s planned linear park.

The document comes months after a change in the design team for the stadium specifically, with the Richmond Flying Squirrels put in charge of the ballpark and the rest of the Diamond District left in the hands of RVA Diamond Partners, the city’s selected developer.

The new stadium design team is led by Machete Group, a Houston-based firm that’s been serving as the Flying Squirrels’ consultant on the ballpark. The team also includes design firms Odell, Ballpark Design Associates and KEI, which took over for RVA Diamond Partners’ previous stadium designer and development consultant, DLR Group and JMI Sports.

BallparkDesign1 Aerial

The stadium’s main entrance would be on the east side and open out to the Diamond District’s planned linear park.

It isn’t clear from the document what is different about the designs from what DLR Group had been working on previously. The new group’s document references a draft ballpark programming summary that DLR prepared last June and that the group reviewed in developing its designs.

The Flying Squirrels ballclub declined a request to discuss the designs for this story.

The 10,000 seats described in the designs is a return to the capacity originally proposed for the venue, which was first envisioned for 8,000 seats and space for 2,000 standing-room patrons. The planned capacity at one time was dropped to 9,000 and most recently was projected at 9,400. The Diamond currently seats about 9,500, with attendance for Flying Squirrels games averaging over 6,000.

Meanwhile, the stadium’s projected cost has increased to between $110 million and $120 million, up from an earlier estimate of $90 million.

BallparkDesign4 BBQ

The barbecue picnic area.

Most of the seats would fill a lower-level bowl, while the rest of the venue would consist of the upper-level suites, concessions, three clubhouses and team offices, as well as the beer garden, picnic area and a team store.

The document encourages a “Richmond-centric design” for the stadium, with industrial warehouse and railway influences that could be achieved with brick facades along the concourse and a more modern-design structure for the suites.

The main entry would feature a metal frame entrance structure and ballpark naming sponsorship displays. Visitors would be greeted with a “nostalgic” section of the stadium with reclaimed seating from The Diamond, a history wall of baseball in Richmond, and the team store designed with an old mill aesthetic.

The kids’ play area would include climbable boulders reminiscent of the James River, and the outfield would be lined with stepped turf planes providing lawn seating for families. The area would expand into the adjacent linear park with staging areas for food trucks.

BallparkDesign6 DugoutSuite

Premium seating would include a “dugout suite” area and individual suites.

Food services for the venue would be designed to be sustainable for three decades, according to the document. They would consist of a central warehouse or commissary, traditional concessions and self-checkout “grab-and-go” concessions, among other options.

The new stadium would rise directly south of The Diamond, which would remain in operation during construction but would be razed once its replacement is complete. The new ballpark would fill the southwest corner of the 67-acre Diamond District site, in the area bordered by Arthur Ashe Boulevard and the train tracks.

The adjacent VCU-owned Sports Backers Stadium would also remain in use while replacement facilities are built at the planned VCU Athletic Village across Hermitage Road. The track-and-field stadium also would eventually be demolished.

BallparkDesign2 BeerGarden

A conceptual rendering of the beer garden.

The document notes that the stadium design team has met with the Flying Squirrels “to further develop a variety of fan experience areas and ticket price points.” It adds that final materials, configurations and seating types “will be further developed with the Squirrels stakeholders and construction manager in the remaining design phases.”

The new ballpark is being designed to comply with facility standards that Major League Baseball is requiring for pro baseball venues across the country, as well as with NCAA Division 1 Baseball standards for use by VCU Baseball. The document notes that “No provisions for future expansion are considered” with the design.

MLB, which in recent years has assumed oversight of minor-league facilities like The Diamond, has set a 2025 deadline for compliance from all venues. City leaders have acknowledged they won’t meet that deadline but have said they are aiming to complete the new stadium in time for the 2026 baseball season, with MLB aware that the project is in the works. The new ballpark is expected to take more than 18 months to build.

BallparkDesign6 Outfield

Outfield amenities would include stepped-turf lawn seating for families and a kids’ play area.

Rounding out the design team for the stadium are structural engineering firm Walter P Moore; MEP engineer Smith Seckman Reid; civil engineer and landscape architect Kimley-Horn; technology and audio-visual consultant Anthony James Partners; and food service consultant William Caruso & Partners. Engineering Consulting Services is handling subsurface geotechnical work for the project.

Odell, which has an office in Richmond, is part of New York-based design firm LaBella Associates and was the stadium designer on Machete Group’s Diamond District team that lost out to RVA Diamond Partners. Odell’s sports and entertainment portfolio includes BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, home of Minor League Baseball’s Charlotte Knights.

Note: This story has been updated with additional details from the schematic designs document. 

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Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
20 days ago

It’s a beaut! I recently attended a series of college games in Jacksonville in their Triple A Miami affiliate team ballpark “The Jumbo Shrimp”and this one will be much nicer. I doubt there will be a finer Double A park in the country. In fact, I wonder if we couldn’t draw a Triple A affiliation here?

primo seats were $30 per game for the series I watched. The cocktails were the heaviest expense. Hopefully, VCU could host similar annual round-robin tournaments with teams from around the country.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
19 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

There’s been a long time rumor that the Nats want to move their AAA team from Rochester to here after the stadium is built.

George "Syke" Paczolt
George "Syke" Paczolt
18 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

Once the new stadium is completed, I’m pretty much counting on AAA baseball returning to Richmond. MLB is on a program that all team close their farm systems to a much smaller radius. Right now, the Nationals Low-A is Fredericksburg, High-A is Wilmington, DE, AA is Harrisburg, PA, and AAA is Rochester, NY. That last is definitely a stretch which would make Richmond a lot more convenient. Meanwhile the Giants Low-A is San Jose, CA, High-A is Eugene, OR and AAA is Sacramento, CA. Richmond is definitely the odd fit for their AA franchise. The change is probably desirable and… Read more »

Will Hazel
Will Hazel
20 days ago

This has to be the most uninspired baseball stadium architecture I’ve ever seen. It literally looks like I-beams and metal siding. No upper deck on the infield to keep you close to the action on a budget, but plenty of crap seats a football field from from the action waaaaay down the line.

John Ficor
John Ficor
20 days ago
Reply to  Will Hazel

Wrong. Take a ride up 95 to Fredericksburg’s little gem of a ballpark, a great place to see a game. Similar layout as the one proposed here, and not one crap seat to be had.

Kevin Randesi
Kevin Randesi
20 days ago
Reply to  John Ficor

…and about $70-80 million cheaper to build too!

Will Hazel
Will Hazel
20 days ago
Reply to  John Ficor

That’s because the FredNats seats stop about the same place the Diamond’s seats stop – close to the infield. Judging by the rendering here, they’re putting probably over 2,000 seats (5 sections worth) beyond where the Diamond’s (and FredNats) seats are. FredNats holds just 5,000 people, this is over 9,000 – instead of keeping the extra seats close to the action, they’ve relegated them to the boonies. Also, the sightlines look horrible – the majority of modern ballparks angle the seating towards the action. These renderings do not depict this – only about half the seats are actually pointed towards… Read more »

Paul Logan
Paul Logan
20 days ago
Reply to  John Ficor

Agree, The layout looks like a larger version of the FredNats stadium or the spring training facility shared by the Nationals and Astros. Major improvement if it gets built, and moving the suites up a level puts that whole concourse behind home plate in a great view of the game that you don’t have at the Diamond.

Jay Emory
Jay Emory
20 days ago
Reply to  Will Hazel

I don’t hate the overall aesthetic but I definitely agree it would be nice to have upper level shaded seats. I know we aren’t Florida but it gets freaking hot and I’ve been to a number of very miserable Squirrels’ games where it was just brutal sitting in the sun.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago
Reply to  Jay Emory

Good point.

Drew Harrison
Drew Harrison
20 days ago
Reply to  Will Hazel

I wonder why such a stadium would take 18 months. Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas took 22 months and is 7x the size and 20x the cost.

George Moore
George Moore
20 days ago
Reply to  Drew Harrison

Sir, that’s the NFL and a then expansion team in Las Vegas, not MiLB in Richmond, VA.

Drew Harrison
Drew Harrison
19 days ago
Reply to  George Moore

I misread the article. I thought the MLB deadline was for the 2026 season, not the 2025 season as the deadline actually is. The city wants the stadium ready for the 2026 season and 13-14 months for other MiLB stadiums vs 18 as proposed doesn’t make too much difference.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
19 days ago
Reply to  Will Hazel

There’s some value in all those critiques (although little hard to see the exact angle of the seats). I too was hoping for something a little more “Richmond” including having the visible warehouse/railroad structures tucked in behind the outfield fence to in effect envelop the stadium into the city. But at least they got the plaza level correct and I have some faith in the fact that if this is what the Squirrels leadership is asking for and putting input in it should be ok. And, at this point if this is what we get, its been a long time… Read more »

Denis Etonach
Denis Etonach
19 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

I agree. What about this stadium says Richmond? I don’t even see the industrial or railroad-influenced architectural elements.

It’s right next to the tracks; I’d love to see it be similar to the Mariners’ T-Mobile Park, where the railroad tracks go under the stands and you can hear the trains during the game.

Boz Boschen
Boz Boschen
17 days ago
Reply to  Denis Etonach

Sir, you just gave the planners a minor coronary with that idea. I cannot imagine how long it would take the City to work through an agreement with CSX and Amtrak, especially right next to the ACCA yard.

But it is true we are working the bridge replacement at a similar timeline…

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
17 days ago
Reply to  Boz Boschen

I think he is kidding.

Taylor Ward
Taylor Ward
20 days ago

This design is pretty bad. The seats all the way down to the end are not a good idea, you can barely see what’s going on down there. The upper deck is a better solution because you will be more engaged with the game.
The overall design is fine if the purpose is just to be an event hangout; but if it is to enjoy baseball, its a big swing and a miss.

Adam Lee
Adam Lee
20 days ago
Reply to  Taylor Ward

Those lower seats aren’t going to have any view of the game. It needs to be taller

George Moore
George Moore
20 days ago
Reply to  Adam Lee

You’d be surprised by how many other stadiums are similar in this setup.

Will Hazel
Will Hazel
20 days ago
Reply to  George Moore

Doesn’t make it a good trend.

Will Hazel
Will Hazel
20 days ago
Reply to  Adam Lee

100% true. Field level outfield seats are the worst view in baseball. You need elevation angle in order to see things on the infield from way out there. And if you’re going to build elevation, why not build it around the infield, close to the action?

The answer (probably): This is cheaper to build, and encourages people to buy more expensive lower level infield seats. Not funn.

Michael Boyer
Michael Boyer
20 days ago

The flat roof takes away the stadium feel.

Brian Glass
Brian Glass
20 days ago

The Charlotte Knights are a triple A team in a stadium with a capacity of 10,200. It opened in 2014 at a cost of $54 million. So, what’s happening at the Diamond District? The cost has more than doubled to between 110-120 million dollars. The seating capacity for the flying Squirrels, a double A team will be the same as a triple A team! Major league baseball is sticking it to Richmond. They should appeal for an 8000-seat stadium at the most. That would reduce the cost and be more in line with the average attendance at Squirrels games of… Read more »

George Moore
George Moore
20 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

No, it will not be ready, and comparing it with a AAA team and including their costs that were a decade old doesn’t do much justice. Plus, MLB has requested multiple times for the Flying Squirrels to upgrade their facility. People forget that we even had a piece of concrete fall from a roof many years ago!

Bruce Milam
Bruce Milam
19 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

Apartments used to cost $100k per door too. Now, $300k is the going rate! Inflation in every category plus interest rates are nearly double.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
17 days ago
Reply to  Bruce Milam

That is really scary if accurate.

George "Syke" Paczolt
George "Syke" Paczolt
18 days ago
Reply to  Brian Glass

The seating capacity is for two reasons: 1. As a AA team, the Squirrels have a fan base way beyond most other AA teams. We’re talking 6000 average attendance, Opening Day and the Fourth of July are regularly 9500 sellouts, plus I believe they did about four other sellouts last season. We can fill the seats. 2. I don’t see the Squirrels being the Giants AA franchise too much longer. It’s no secret that the Nationals have talked to the Squirrels about being their AAA franchise on more than one occasion in the past, the Diamond has been the one… Read more »

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
11 days ago

Interesting since MLB is the one that assigns affiliates and the deal with Rochester, as the AAA team for Washington is set for 10 years, began in 2020. Do you know of another MLB team at the end of an affiliation?

Robert Chakales
Robert Chakales
20 days ago

For the best professional baseball experience in America go to Truist Park and see the world class venue that the Atlanta Braves play in. It’s an all day family destination that truly hits a home run. It’s the complete package second to none. Richmond should have hired their designers. They nailed it!

George Moore
George Moore
20 days ago

Thanks, guy

Justin Ranson
Justin Ranson
20 days ago

New major league parks put on a good show. Noted. (Most sarcastic eyeroll imaginable)

Will Hazel
Will Hazel
20 days ago

Yall are wrecking on this guys comment because you think it’s an apples and oranges comparison, but it’s actually a valid point. So much of the A-Braves gameday experience is The Battery. Truist Park is not anything groundbreaking inside the gates – it’s nice, but nothing spectacular. What is spectacular and groundbreaking is the dining/drinking/entertainment district that they built surrounding the park. Completely walkable/zero vehicular traffic immediately surrounding the ballpark. Hopefully something of this nature evolves for the Diamond District around this park.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
19 days ago

As a 50 year braves fan – that’s a terrible take. They took their really good stadium (the Ted) tucked right in downtown and moved it out to the burbs where its not even really Atlanta. Yes the park is lovely but the Ted was awesome though as well and it was in Atlanta

Jay Emory
Jay Emory
19 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

Agreed, Craig. I have strong ties to Georgia with family in the immediate area of Truist (as well as having lived in the state myself for several stints) and I can tell you citizens were none too pleased with moving the stadium to Cobb County. I loved Turned Field. Truist is really nice, but it just did not feel necessary.

Joey perry
Joey perry
18 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

I have family in the northern burbs of Atlanta sandy springs and Roswell in particular but I remember hearing they never could develop around the ted which is why they told Atlanta see ya later and headed to Cobb county. Probably was easier to work something with them than the city of Atlanta. I can’t blame them either for that. Either way as a life long Braves fan have a World Series trophy ready in the new park 2021 World Series champs. Also that beautiful title in 1995. I was 7 years old when they won the title in 1995.… Read more »

Charles Frankenhoff
Charles Frankenhoff
20 days ago

I hope this stadium is multi use, not just limited to Baseball

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago

Oh, me too!

Joey perry
Joey perry
18 days ago

Maybe outdoor concerts when able to. Ballparks aren’t really able to do that with a long season. NFL stadiums and arenas are way more multi use than anything.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago

We need to bring back Doug Wilder.

There are plenty well researched books about the Muni economics of sports out there, if anyone wants to learn something.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
19 days ago
Reply to  Shawn Harper

wait … the guy who tried to shoehorn the stadium into shockoe bottom and started this endless clusterf*ck of delay? come on….

Chris Hilbert
Chris Hilbert
19 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

That was Dwight Jones.

Craig Davis
Craig Davis
19 days ago
Reply to  Chris Hilbert

While I’m well aware of & respect your role in city gov’t, google and the RTD archives would suggest your memory is wrong. Wilder 1st proposed the slave museum development in shockoe bottom to offset the backlash to the ballpark plan & then pivoted when it didn’t work

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
16 days ago
Reply to  Craig Davis

Wilder was the guy who told the sports moguls to go pound sand.

Cities like Richmond need to attract things that create jobs and don’t require it to build them a place to do business.

Michael Morgan-Dodson
Michael Morgan-Dodson
20 days ago

Funny little comments on the article point that this rendering does look remarkable similar to previous visions from the other firms. I am guessing the overall design did not change but specific options (like 3 clubhouses so VCU has its own) are the changes that overall visitor won’t really notice. The food truck court is comical; food trucks have not worked well as stadium owners want a cut/use fee that makes it unlikely local vendors will feel it is worth participating. We all remember how well Washington Training Park did with food truck vendors. I also can not see this… Read more »

George Moore
George Moore
20 days ago

Before people get fired up, I think it’s important to note that as stated in the article, “The designs, which are preliminary and subject to change”

Nick Feakins
Nick Feakins
20 days ago
Reply to  George Moore

although I feel the designs/drawings tend to get worse, not better, as people start reducing the budget…

George Moore
George Moore
18 days ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

I agree 100%. At this point, I think it is imperative to upgrade the Diamond to keep MiLB baseball in Richmond at the most basic level.

Jordan Tucker
Jordan Tucker
18 days ago
Reply to  George Moore

MLB should tell the city to take a hike

Nick Feakins
Nick Feakins
20 days ago

Interesting comments. As a parent, I have to say my biggest concern is the lack of shade for the seats… those games get really hot and the kids won’t want to come/stay if it is 95 degrees in the sun.

Chris Crews
Chris Crews
20 days ago
Reply to  Nick Feakins

That’s part of the amenity package – plenty of other things to do than sit in the sun.

Will Hazel
Will Hazel
20 days ago
Reply to  Chris Crews

Trying to figure out if this comment is satire…. Going on the assumption it is not, the main point of going to a baseball game is…watch the baseball game. If the solution to needing shade is doing things other than watch the baseball game, that’s a pretty terrible solution.

If it was satire, apologies.

Chris Crews
Chris Crews
19 days ago
Reply to  Will Hazel

Hi, Will. Not really satire. I’m a parent, and have taken my lad to many a Squirrels game. When he was younger, it was tough for him to sweat out an entire game. “Let’s go grab a hot dog.” This new ball park includes different areas and amenities that will offer welcome distractions for those with little kids. If you’re a parent, you come prepared.

Shawn Harper
Shawn Harper
20 days ago
Reply to  Chris Crews

?

It’s an emporium of fun?

Scott Brown
Scott Brown
20 days ago

It looks nice, but also basic. There is nothing unique about it. Nothing that says Richmond.
I know the Squirrels have been waiting a long time for this and I’m sure they are just happy that it is finally happening, but they have been a great part of the community and deserve something more original.

Martha Lee
Martha Lee
19 days ago
Reply to  Scott Brown

Agreed. This design is “Anywhere USA”. Thank goodness the rendering is preliminary.

Robert Ward
Robert Ward
19 days ago

Those lower seats will be horrible. They are not elevated enough. You need some upper deck stadium seating, possibly shaded. Those sunny afternoon games in July and August get pretty hot and unbearable. Reduce the number of luxury boxes.

Mark Hamilton
Mark Hamilton
19 days ago

How long has RVA been pursuing a new ballpark, 25 years?
I hoped we’d see a more inspired design than this. But, getting a new stadium built is a requirement to keep baseball alive here. Let’s hope these renders simply depict the design program and not the final architecture. Keep in mind this release was not direct from the team or the developer.

Erik Colley
Erik Colley
19 days ago

Tough crowd! I think the rendering looks really great and is definitely an upgrade and step in the right direction for us. I’m excited! With that being said, some sun shades over the lawn seating would be clutch, and a very easy addition. It does get hot out there.

Hoping the opening of the new stadium is well attended and supported with consistency for years to come and I’d love to see a hockey team follow suit and come back to Richmond, too!

Steve Cook
Steve Cook
19 days ago
Reply to  Erik Colley

Yay. Hockey at the Diamond. It may get a little splashy but that would be part of the distractions to make it more fun for the kids.

Steve Cook
Steve Cook
19 days ago

Im somewhat underwhelmed but I’m sure after reading these comments, the powers that be will make the adjustments that so many of you have suggested.
This plan doesn’t look at all like what I had expected based on previous articles that highlighted what made the Diamond so unattractive abd so unrenovatable, if that’s actually a word.

Nick Feakins
Nick Feakins
13 days ago
Reply to  Steve Cook

that’s a good point. I always heard one of the biggest issues with the diamond is upon entering you have to go up all those steps. they made it sound like the future field was going to be below ground level to reduce that.