Richmond, VCU and Squirrels eying property near Diamond for new stadium

Richmond, VCU and Squirrels eying property near Diamond for new stadium

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A new stadium for the Richmond Flying Squirrels could be built near the current Diamond site, the City of Richmond announced in a press release on Tuesday afternoon.

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is working with the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Virginia Commonwealth University on the new ballpark, which would be outside of the city-owned 60 acres on the Boulevard, according to a press release.

"This new initiative may very well serve everyone's interests, particularly the community's, while allowing the Squirrels to stay in our hometown," said Lou DiBella, President and Managing General Partner of the Richmond Flying Squirrels in the release. "It feels like we're closer to a solution than ever before."

The city's press release did not list the site's exact location and said the three parties are working together to "explore identifying a location." Mayor Jones said the city will extend the Squirrels' current lease on the Diamond for a second one-year extension to December 31, 2018.

"It's vitally important that we find ways to generate maximum revenue to fund public schools and other services that a growing city needs," said Mayor Jones. "This approach opens a pathway for full development of the city's most valuable land, provides the Squirrels and VCU baseball with a new home and keeps the ballpark in an area that Richmonders love."

Several City Council members said they were not told about the plans prior to the press release being issued. NBC12 reporter Stephanie Robusto said she broke the news to some members of City Council herself.

The new facility would be used outside of the baseball season to provide year-round programming said Todd "Parney" Parnell, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

VCU believes the current Diamond is not ideal for the school's future baseball needs, but the university believes it should partner with the city on the new ballpark.

"VCU and the Squirrels have a great sports partnership, and we are excited about moving toward a new ballpark in Virginia's capital city that enables our teams to compete at the highest level and improve the fan experience at our games," said VCU President Michael Rao.

The press release offered few details about funding, other than to say that it "would likely be funded primarily by the ballpark's users." The city intends to spend the next 90 days on a request for qualifications from developers and regional partners before providing more information.

A consultant's presentation to City Council ?from Tripp Umbach says the stadium on North Boulevard is "not reaching full market potential" and that the site is generating no more than $400,000 in revenue for the city. 

The report recommends a "high density, urban, mixed use, development" on the 60-acre property. The consultant says a 20-year plan should include mixed house, retail, "urban flex space" and lodging.

In the first two months of 2016 Tripp Umbach held public forums which showed a majority of support for baseball to remain in the Boulevard area. The forums also showed that the public does not want the city to do a redevelopment of the area on its own.

The report says that residents "do not want to see a development that is reminiscent of already existing areas such as Short Pump and Stony Point."

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