RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It was a mixed reaction from Richmond's mayoral candidates to the city's announcement to keep minor league baseball in Richmond.
The city announced it inked a deal with VCU and the Flying Squirrels to help fund a multi-million dollar stadium. The candidates are in a bit of agreement on this: baseball and revenue from it are good, but spending city time and money - not so much.
The leading mayoral candidate called a press conference Tuesday to bash the idea and lucky for us, another candidate made a surprise visit. An opportunistic press conference for Richmond mayoral candidate Levar Stoney.
"Was Joe Morrissey here?" Stoney laughs.
In fact, Morrissey called the press conference to slam the newest ballpark funding proposal.
"Under a Morrissey administration, and this is what separates me and all of the other candidates, no tax payer money is going to be used for professional sports complexes, period," said Morrissey.
The announcement wasn't clear how much localities might chip in, just saying VCU and the Flying Squirrels would foot the bulk of the estimated $55 million bill.
After Morrissey wrapped up, Stoney shared his thoughts.
"If it gets the city out of the baseball business, I'm all for it," said Stoney. "$300,000 a year for maintenance right now, that's how we got into trouble with the schools in the first place: we keep paying, paying, paying. So if the city can actually find a private deal in which the private sector is paying for it or taking on the liability for it, then I'm all for it. We should not be in the business of baseball, we should be in the business of investing in our schools."
Michelle Mosby also shared her thoughts.
"I do not expect that a City financial commitment would be requested until the site is confirmed," said Mosby. "If they do request a commitment, I would be comfortable with something similar to the maintenance costs of the old Diamond that would go away when a new ballpark is built. I understand that the maintenance costs fluctuate now, but average out at $300,000 per year. While some candidates are playing small ball with a decaying building, I want to clear our 60 acres for millions in revenue to support schools and services."
At last night's only live televised mayoral debate, right here on NBC12, Jack Berry applauded a plan that keeps baseball on the Boulevard.
"I think this is a tremendous opportunity for Richmond to create a midtown right on the Boulevard that would include retail, restaurants, sports, entertainment, hotel," said Berry.
We reached out to Jon Baliles and Michelle Mosby. Baliles says, in part, "we need better priorities at City Hall." We're still waiting to hear from Mosby.
But, will it ever get done? We're in a seven-year rain delay for a new Squirrels stadium.
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