RICHMOND, Va. – “Durham could be ballpark template” shouts the headline on ace reporter Greg Moomaw’s recent RTD story.
This coming Wednesday, Mayor Jones and his supportive posse are headed down to Durham, North Carolina to show why that city’s downtown baseball park [Durham Bulls Athletic Park] is the template for how we need to do things here in the River City.
The Mayor’s highly-regarded press secretary said Durham “provides an interesting case study” for how we should approach a new baseball stadium in Richmond.
People in the writing business choose words carefully. The Mayor and posse said Durham is a good model, one we should follow.
SINCE THE MAYOR SAID DURHAM IS THE TEMPLATE, WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED THERE?
1. THE PEOPLE WERE GIVEN THE RIGHT TO HAVE A VOICE IN A PUBLIC REFERENDUM
Contrary to Richmond, the people got a vote.
The vote actually involved whether or not government bonds should be issued to pay for rehabilitating the old baseball park, the stadium featured in the hit movie “Bull Durham.” The stadium needed repair. Although it is considered an historic structure which should have been preserved, the public voted NO to issuing those millions in bonds.
In Virginia, YOU would be entitled to have your say in a referendum if YOU LIVED IN HENRICO OR CHESTERFIELD before your government could issue the $100 million bonds [capital and interest] that Mayor Jones and his posse want to issue to build his downtown stadium.
But, the people of Richmond DON’T GET THAT RIGHT, only the people of Henrico and Chesterfield!
Section 10 of Article VII of the Virginia Constitution only requires a bond referendum for county residents, not city residents.
This is why, for example, Mayor Jones has borrowed to the hilt, along with City Council, without the public having any direct say. Now they want to borrow more without your say.
Should it be that way?
I think a good case can be made to amend the Virginia Constitution and stop treating Richmond residents as second-class citizens.
We don’t get a vote, others do.
2. AN INDEPENDENT DURHAM COMMITTEE REVIEWED ALL POSSIBLE SITES
Contrary to what Mayor Jones did – do everything behind the scenes with no formal public input – the folks in Durham had a far more transparent process.
A local business guy headed-up a group that did a report on four possible stadium sites.
The initially favored site, according to my research, was rejected because of concerns raised by Durham’s minority community.
3. CONSTRUCTION COST OVERRUNS WERE SIGNIFICANT
The Durham experience had cost over-runs of between 15 – 40 percent on various parts of the project, depending on what news report or analysis is right.
Whatever the true number, the Mayor’s Plan DOESN’T ACCOUNT for cost overruns.
If Durham is the model, then the Mayor is UNDERSTATING the cost to the city for his Shockoe Bottom Plan, which includes other city fund expenditures, by $12 – 30 million, depending on which Durham number is applicable given that we are using it as the model.
Moreover, as I read the history, the actual stadium construction got delayed and thus got finished a season later than promised due to cost overruns.
4. $MILLIONS LATER NEED TO REHAB THE AGING FACILITY
Contrary to the Mayor’s plan, the Durham experience shows the stadium itself will soon require major repairs/modernization.
The research shows differing numbers on what this renovation will cost, it is just now being completed.
But since the Durham Bull’s new stadium opened in 1995, we do know the repairs became needed in less than 20 years.
The news stories say the fix-up will cost either $12 or $19 million depending on which story is correct.
So lets use both numbers for a low and high range. Using past CPI data, this calculates to between $20 – 33 million in costs that WILL BE REQUIRED in the future using Durham as a model.
The Mayor’s plan DOES NOT TAKE THIS HUGE SUM INTO CONSIDERATION.
The Durham model puts most of this cost on the city, with some on the Bulls. But this equation is based on how the original lease agreement and the team’s financial contribution over the past years and projected into the future. The Mayor hasn’t told us whether he has made any backroom deal with the Richmond Squirrels.
What is their arrangement on future rehab costs since it is an inevitable issue?
5. CONTRARY TO THE MAYOR’S CLAIM, HIS BASEBALL PLAN DOESN’T HELP FIGHT POVERTY
Thanks to John Gerner for pointing this out.
In a column entitled “The Other Durham: Poverty up in the poorest areas”, it turns out the promise made by Durham Leaders – that their baseball stadium would help cure poverty – is the same as Mr. Jones’ posse. But the truth, at least in Durham, is not quite what the politicians claimed.
By making Durham his model, Mayor Jones really put the City Council on the spot.
Are they just nine monkeys to the Mayoral organ grinder? Can Mr. Jones and his posse say or do whatever they want knowing at least seven of the nine will do what he wants no matter how he embarrasses them?
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.