Shockoe Stadium public hearing brings opponents to the plate

Shockoe stadium closer aerial view

Shockoe stadium closer aerial view

Talk about playing hard ball. Several people opposed to the mayor’s plans for a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom spoke passionately to city council members on Tuesday.

More than a dozen people, a majority of them opposed to the ballpark in the bottom, took to the podium to plea with city council members to keep baseball at the Diamond.

“The vast majority of baseball fans want baseball to stay on the Boulevard, where it is right now,” one opponent said

This was the first public hearing since Mayor Dwight Jones pitched the $200 million economic development plan last Monday.  The plans includes a 7,500 seat stadium for the Richmond Flying Squirrels , a slave history and heritage center, as well as a Hilton hotel, Kroger and apartments and office space.

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Some argued that the mayor has sought little public input for the project, and said that Tuesday’s three o’clock public hearing was an inconvenient time for people with jobs and families.

Opponents questioned safety, traffic and congestion issues in Shockoe Bottom  and the economic vitality of the multi-million dollar public/private investment.  They say baseball shouldn’t be a priority when the city’s education, transportation and poverty issues aren’t being addressed.

Phil Wilayto, editor of the Virginia Defender, says the mayor didn’t deliver on his promises regarding the Redskins training camp facility, and says the ballpark plan could meet a similar fate.

“There was no benefits to the city, the surrounding businesses reported very little increased traffic and retail sales, according to the daily newspaper, sales were actually down in August over the year before,” Wilayto argued.

The historical significance of Shockoe Bottom was also a topic of discussion.  Opponents say the land where hundreds of African American slaves were sold, imprisoned and died, is sacred and shouldn’t be desecrated with slabs of concrete.

Several city leaders, including Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall, argued the Shockoe Bottom plan would provide the greatest long-term economic benefit to Richmond.

Marshall says the plan is expected to generate $187-million over 20 years,  or $10 to $12 million annually in tax revenues that would repay the city’s investment and would continue to generate funds for schools and transportation, as well as serve as a catalyst for building a slave-heritage center.

Marshall says the plan also unlocks development potential of 60 plus acres on the Boulevard.

7 comments

  • Eugene Golden

    Gee if you commercially develop the current Diamond site…. then you have left Sports Backers Stadium as a fairly nice sports venue as an out of place facility. Maybe the the mayor wants to move that to the former location of 6th Street Marketplace….

  • Phil Wilayto

    According to Bryan Marshall, if the city drops the part of its plan for a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, it still would realize about $90 million in revenue over the next 20 years from new development on the Boulevard. Now add to that a first-class historic district and heritage tourism center and you’ve got a win-win situation. Only H. Louis Salomonski would lose out, a real shame.

    • Thomas

      I was at the same meeting you were and I must have missed where Byron Marshall said that. I find it interesting that you pooh pooh everything they have said and then use their same numbers to validate your perception of things. So if you agree to everything except the ballpark what makes you think Salomonsky would be excluded? He owns property down there and you would have to dance with him like it or not but I can only assume that if you are given your way then you will find him much more palatable.

  • Glen Allen

    Phil, you have hit the nail directly on the head, and everyone with eyes, and the ability to read, knows it. The entire proposal is meant for only a select group to recognize profit. There should be no reason the entire development the Mayor is proposing cannot still happen as proposed, minus the baseball stadium, but the tax payers should not be contributing a single cent toward the construction and development of a new Kroger, hotel, and apartments, especially since our schools capital & maintenance budgets are continuously UNDERFUNDED, grass city-wide is constantly ignored until the media gets involved, the streets are terrible, and sidewalks are in disrepair.

    The antiquated combined wastewater system beneath the area in question does most certainly need to be addressed, but it should have been addressed beginning immediately after Storm Gaston, but instead City leaders have continued to put money toward “gamble” investments such as a 10 million dollars football field, and an international bicycle race. The City has the revenue to take care of itself, the leaders (Jones) must stop trying to be Santa Clause to his political investment buddies, and start serving the public, as he was elected to do.

    This entire baseball in the Bottom campaign has been nothing more than a waste of money, embarrassing the City of Richmond. How many times must the voters say NO to the baseball in the Bottom? How many more dollars must be spent trying to convince the voters to see things the Mayor’s way. Will City Council ever listen to those that elected them to office? They are making it very easy for future opponents to take their jobs away in future elections. How much money did the football field actually bring in to the City of Richmond and local merchants?

  • Thomas

    Notable that the focus on the opposition is center stage with not a word on those who stood and spoke in favor of. A non biased press is a beautiful thing.

    • Ed

      A study should be dune on putting a major league base ball team there.no one goes to miner league games in the us. Richmond low attendances is the best in aa ball over all. So MLB would problemly triple the attendances that they get now or more which would bring in the money. Make the state pay for it also richmond is in the middle of the state. Very few base ball towns are in the us. Richmond is one of those towns. I think a study should be done.ASAP!!!!!

  • Ed

    Miner leage sports is not going to make some one want to stay in a hotel in the bottom MLB will. Put richmond on the map please there to many Richmond’s in the us. The name is very common. Then we can get on to more important stuff. Like schools and so on.

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