Group releases their vision for new Richmond ballpark

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)- Peter Boisseau, of Richmond-based Boisseau Marketing, released Sunday a plan developed by the group Ballpark Nutz for a new baseball stadium in Richmond.

The group, who refers to themselves as “citizens committed to building a modern baseball park as soon as feasible” envisions a stadium built on the Boulevard to accommodate 9,000 fans. Their vision is aimed to suit both ardent baseball enthusiasts and family entertainment alike.

Many baseball fans want to cheer inside a nicer newer stadium hoping for an upgrade from the 1985 model that exists now.

“It absolutely needs a facelift its been much needed for a long time,” said fan Patrick Tanner.

Fans might get their wish. The just released plans have the old Diamond demolished and a newer, urban friendly version built. It has more space, more concessions and a more high tech score board.

“(Right) now, the Squirrels are limited in the entertainment experience they can deliver by the inherent challenges of The Diamond’s design,” the Nutz said in a press release. “The new ballpark will be a modern 21st century Minor League Baseball park, designed to encourage social interaction among fans and families. It will be more comfortable, congenial and neighborly.”

“This here would some of the footprint of the ballpark a little parking here and then here as well,” said VP of the Squirrels Todd Parnell.

The @50 million dollar project is half-funded. The city of Richmond will put up 25 percent and the Flying Squirrels will put up another quarter of the price. Project advocates say momentum around the team is high.

“Just the overall greatness as far as sports are concerned has really been uplifted in the past three years,” said Parnell.

Councilman Charles Samuels agrees and says a new stadium is an exciting prospect

“The drawings are beautiful,” said Samuels.

The prospect just can’t happen right now. Samuels believes that since Henrico and Chesterfield fans use the stadium too, those localities should help with the price.

“Every body’s budgets are being pinched, we have to look at the core role of local government before we can go to niceties,” said Samuels.

The group’s primary building material for the structure will be brick, and instead of having to tackle stairs at the front gates to get up to their seats, fans will instead walk down stairs in the new design.

Another popular feature included would be a full 360 degree concourse, allowing fans to circumnavigate the entire facility, and even sit on a grassy hill just beyond the outfield wall, similar to Spring Training games and the Little League World Series.

“There even will be a home plate-shaped shallow water feature in centerfield—Nutzy’s fountain,” according to the group.

20 larger, climate controlled suites will replace the Diamond’s 15, and as a bonus for everyone, all concession stands will be in plain view of the field, the group boasting that you’ll never miss a pitch.

“The atmosphere will be brighter and more pleasant,” the group believes.

In 2008, the Atlanta Braves moved their Triple-A affiliate to Gwinnett, Georgia due to frustrations with the Richmond region’s plans, or lack there of, for a new stadium, or an overhaul of the Diamond.

Following a year without baseball, Lou DiBella moved his Double-A franchise, formerly called the Connecticut Defenders, to Richmond in 2009, with promises from regional leaders that their stay in the Diamond would be short lived.

The team, affectionately renamed the Flying Squirrels, has boasted record level attendance numbers in its first two seasons, featuring live music and fireworks shows, as well as year-round community involvement in programs like Coats for Kids. They even schedule late morning games so schools can bring students to the Diamond.

While no one would deny the franchise has done its part, progress on a new stadium plan has been sluggish at times due to the tough economic environment. During baseball’s winter meetings this year, DiBella obtained permission from Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Connor to seek relocation, if he desired to leave Ricmond.

Since then, meetings between the team officials and regional leaders have seemed to yield more progress. Mayor Dwight Jones of the city of Richmond has dedicated $6 million in the 2013 budget toward a new stadium, and some preparations are already being made to remove vehicles and equipment from the city’s transportation and vehicle fleet depot, located adjacent to the Diamond, which is widely considered the best site for a new stadium.

The Squirrels have committed to match every dollar contributed by the city, and its county partners Henrico and Chesterfield, toward a new stadium. However, no other regional locality has committed funds to the project quite yet, citing tight budgets and falling revenues.

The plan released Sunday by Ballpark Nutz is the first of its kind, but by no means is not the final draft on a new ballpark. You can follow the group on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BallparkNutz.

On April 5 the Flying Squirrels open their 2012 schedule at New Britain. The home opener is a week later on April 12 against Altoona.

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