Richmond announces 'significant step' toward new ballpark near Boulevard

Richmond announces 'significant step' toward new ballpark near Boulevard

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond Flying Squirrels could play baseball near the Boulevard for another 30 years in a stadium shared with Virginia Commonwealth University according to agreement signed by both parties and the City of Richmond.

The Memorandum of Understanding was announced by Mayor Dwight Jones late Monday and calls for a $50 million to $60 million ballpark. The Squirrels would pay $1 million a year in rent and VCU would also be a major contributor, according to a press release sent by the Mayor's Office.

The ballpark would also be used for concerts, festivals and community events and officials compared it to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte and Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.

VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin and Flying Squirrels President Lou DiBella signed off on the agreement, which is non-binding but shows a commitment to remain in Richmond.

"This is a significant step forward for baseball in the Richmond region," said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. "More importantly, it advances our efforts for economic development along the Boulevard to generate revenue for schools and city services, consistent with our longstanding goals for Richmond."

The City declined to offer any additional details, but said the talks began in April stemming from plans to develop a site north of the Diamond at Boulevard and Hermitage Road. The land would be acquired and developed by both VCU and the Squirrels, according to the agreement. Other parties that could be involved include  "the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Richmond and other localities, private developers and investors, among others," the agreement states.

VCU and the Squirrels both agreed not to explore an independent baseball stadium for one year while working on this stadium proposal.

"This is an exciting next step toward improving quality of life and driving economic development for the entire region while at the same time advancing VCU's athletic programs," said VCU President Michael Rao.

VCU could acquire the land, swap land with the property owner, lease the land or lease the stadium and sublease to the Squirrels, according to the agreement.

"The Flying Squirrels are excited by the progress and spirit of cooperation that is evidenced by this new agreement. We look forward to playing our games in a new ballpark, as tenants in a Boulevard area that is being economically developed to best serve the interests of our Greater Richmond community, neighbors and fans," added Lou DiBella.

Copyright 2016 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved