Mayor Jones, Flying Squirrels, and VCU Lay Out Path to New Ballpark Near Boulevard
Mayor Dwight Jones, the Richmond Flying Squirrels, and Virginia Commonwealth University said today they are working together to explore identifying a location for a new RVA ballpark, near the Diamond, but off the city-owned 60 acres bounded by the Boulevard and Hermitage Road. The announcement follows yesterday’s issuance of a report which recommends full development of the city’s 60 acres and inclusion of sports and entertainment in the larger area.
The partners said extensive stakeholder engagement had brought them together in recent months, fueled by numerous public meetings and survey participation of more than 5,000 residents of the Richmond region.
“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. “It feels like we’re closer to a solution than ever before.”
“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.”
Todd “Parney” Parnell, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Richmond Flying Squirrels underscored the team’s desire to offer year-round programming in addition to baseball. A new facility will help the team accomplish that.
Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin said that while VCU’s baseball team plays at The Diamond (under a sub-lease with the Squirrels), the facility is not ideal for the team’s future needs.
“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 partners emphasized that a new ballpark would likely be funded primarily by the ballpark’s users. They agreed to report progress to the public by the end of an approximately 90-day period, during which the city would pursue a “request for qualifications” from national real estate developers, engage regional partners, and continue public engagement to determine the long-term future of the Boulevard area.
To demonstrate the city’s commitment to a long term solution, Mayor Jones said the city intends to extend the Squirrels’ current lease on the Diamond for a second one-year extension to December 31, 2018.