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Richmond Wants Developers to Submit Plan for New Minor League Ballpark

Richmond's The Diamond during 2019 Eastern League All-Star Game
Trey Wilson, Richmond Flying Squirrels
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Richmond's The Diamond during 2019 Eastern League All-Star Game

The city of Richmond hopes to take first steps this week to secure a new home for its minor league baseball team, and keep it from leaving the city.

Developers have until Tuesday to respond to the city’s lengthy ‘Request for Interest’ that includes a roughly $80-million new stadium for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

The Diamond, built in 1985, is in disrepair, and falls well short of rules imposed by Major League Baseball, which took over team operations last year.

Kevin Reichard is editor of the online journal Ballpark Digest, and covered this story in December. He said the new ballpark needs to be ready in time for the 2025 baseball season.

“Richmond’s been kind of coasting along for years with what’s been considered an outdated facility for both fans and players," Reichard said. "They’ve received waivers to keep minor league baseball in town the past several years, but now, with the new facility rules, minor league teams are mandated to come with solutions to meet the new facility standard, and The Diamond doesn’t come close.”

Richmond’s proposed 70-acre city-owned ‘Diamond District’ will also allow Virginia Commonwealth University to play some of its games in the new stadium.

Reichard says it’s hard to say what kind of financing plan could be ultimately approved.

In a statement, a spokesman for Mayor Levar Stoney says the objective is to find a solution that “does not require city financing, or in the alternative, minimizing city financing to the greatest extent possible.”

Flying Squirrels CEO Todd Parnell issued a separate statement.
“As the momentum towards a ‘more normal’ 2022 season builds, we are also excited about the positive energy towards the development of the Diamond District and the many positive ramifications that will have for not only Squirrels fans, but for the Richmond community 365 days a year.”

The city of Richmond hopes to announce an approved development plan by this summer.

As for baseball in 2022, the minor leagues are not impacted by the lockout between owners and players, threatening the start of the Major League Baseball season.

The Flying Squirrels, a Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, and Virginia’s other minor league clubs will begin play in April.

UPDATE: The city received 15 potential plans for the Diamond District, and Richmond hopes to choose one by this summer.

Maritza Marcado Pechin is the project manager.

"That means affordable housing. That means opportunities for minority business and small business enterprises," she said. "Greenspace that helps manage our stormwater. It means green building infrastructure. And all of these things are items that we have listed in the master plan, and brought into the Request for Interest.”

Pechin expects the city to reduce the number of proposals by end of March. Richmond also invites public input as it starts to review developer plans.

She says the winning proposal will minimize public investment as much as possible when building a new stadium.