It looks like the Richmond Flying Squirrels will be playing at The Diamond even longer. The team has reached a tentative agreement with the Richmond Metropolitan Authority to extend its lease there for another few seasons.
Despite how this appears, Squirrels management insisted Friday, this in no way means they aren't working toward a new ball park. While there are no concrete plans, however, they have to make the best of their current home at The Diamond.
Making the best of that current home, means some improvements are necessary. Friday, crews worked on changes to the field. Those fixes will most likely have to last for the next few years. The tentative lease extension goes through the 2015 season with options through 2017.
"We can get into whether or not that's frustrating," Squirrels Director of Broadcasting and Media Jon Laaser said. "I think we've had that conversation before but the bottom line is that our timetable from when we got into town in 2009 isn't quite where we thought it was going to be. So we needed to add some years because we needed a place to play baseball and it's going to be The Diamond for now."
A diamond that will soon see $300,000 worth of lighting upgrades.
The current lighting system doesn't actually meet Minor League Baseball standards. It's a somewhat confusing measurement but essentially it comes down to the fact that those fixtures don't provide enough lighting both in the infield and the outfield.
"It should appear much brighter," RMA Director of Operations David Caudill explained. "From a player's perspective, there won't be any areas of insufficient lighting and a good as the Squirrels are, they'll be that much better."
With the lease extension, the hope is that the funding situation and negotiations for a new ball park will also be that much better in time.
"I think this will give the localities a little more time to develop a possible new stadium scenario and currently the economic condition has not provided that foundation," Caudill maintained.
For now though, the Squirrels say they're taking the money from each locality as reassurance of the commitment to the team.
That $300,000 price tag will be split among Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield. The upgrades should be complete by the 2013 opener.
The RMA Board of Directors is expected to discuss the lease extension at its next meeting on November 13.
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