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City, Flying Squirrels, VCU in early talks for new $55 million baseball stadium on the Boulevard

The vision, if realized, would keep the minor league team in Richmond, near The Diamond, for at least three decades.

Trevor Dickerson

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The City of Richmond joined the Richmond Flying Squirrels and Virginia Commonwealth University late Monday to announce the three are in the very early stages of talks to keep baseball on the Boulevard with a new $55 million stadium.

In a news release, the city says the minor league baseball team intends to commit to stay in Richmond for a minimum of 30 years once a new ballpark is constructed, according to a newly signed agreement. The memorandum of understanding will guide the final stages of planning for a new ballpark in Richmond to be used by both VCU Athletics and the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

The announcement comes after a new partnership to keep minor league baseball in the region was formed in April and an extensive public comment period, in which over 6,000 people participated and voiced their comments and concerns. The city also held a public meeting in January, where tensions ran high as residents urged the city to incorporate baseball into its plans to redevelop the area surrounding The Diamond.

Interestingly, the new stadium would be developed near–but not on–60 acres of city-owned land bounded by North Boulevard and Hermitage Road, according to the agreement reached this week and signed by VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin and by Lou DiBella, President of the Richmond Flying Squirrels. The Diamond currently sits on a portion of that parcel and would likely be demolished following construction of the new stadium to make way for new development. The city is currently seeking proposals to redevelop the surrounding property to its “highest and best use.”

The Flying Squirrels and VCU will be “major contributors” to the price tag of the new project, which is estimated between $50 and $60 million. The Squirrels would be charged approximately $1 million per year for use of the new facility–four times their rent at The Diamond. Figures on what VCU Athletics would contribute were not available at press time. There were also no details released on how the project would be financed and what portion of the bill city taxpayers would be on the hook for, or whether surrounding counties would contribute.

The city says the new ballpark will also be able to accommodate non-athletic events such as concerts, festivals, or other community events, and it will be substantially similar in size, quality, programming, and amenities to BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte and Coca-Cola Park in Allentown.

Following the forward motion to develop a new stadium, the city says the Squirrels have “no desire to look elsewhere” and are committed to staying in Richmond.

“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.

“The Flying Squirrels are excited by the progress and spirit of cooperation that is evidenced by this new agreement,” added Lou DiBella. “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.”

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.