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Mayor withdraws Shockoe Bottom ballpark proposal

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The Richmond City Council was expecting to decide the fate of Mayor Dwight Jones’ Shockoe Stadium plan Tuesday evening.

But before council members could deliver what was expected to be a fatal blow to a proposal that would develop two different areas of the city, the mayor abruptly withdrew it, saying he hoped to change a mind or two before reintroducing it.

“I stand behind the plan,” Jones insisted, minutes before the council was to vote. “This is the best plan for baseball in the city of Richmond,” Jones said.

Some supporters of the plan, which include both business owners and residents of the Bottom, said the mayor did the only thing he could to prevent his plan from striking out.

“If the vote had gone tonight and it was a done deal, yes I would have been [disappointed], but I’m glad it’s been postponed and hopefully we can make it happen,” John VanPeppen the owner of Arcadia restaurant said.

“We need to make sure everybody gets benefit of hearing all aspects of plan so they can make an informed vote,” Jones said.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels’ owner Lou DiBello said he was grateful to Jones for advancing a plan that included a ballpark. He also said the team will need a new stadium soon, but speaking carefully, promised his agenda is to stay in Richmond for a number of years.

By the end of last week, five Richmond City Council members — a majority of the nine-member panel– had expressed their intent to vote against the mayor’s plan.

“Mayor Jones and supporters say the people back his stadium proposal. Based on my discussions with Richmond residents, I respectfully disagree,” Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell said in a statement.

She asked the mayor put his vision before Richmond voters and let them decide whether to build a minor league baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom or leave it situated along Boulevard.

Council member Chris Hilbert says his mind is made up, and that he won’t be changing it.

Council members Charles Samuels and Jon Baliles issued statements late last week that expressed their intention to vote against the plan and their displeasure with the way the mayor has handled its roll-out.

“We are disappointed that the Administration has decided in favor of yet another delay in providing details of their Shockoe ballpark plan. They introduced the latest version of their plan on May 12 with a requested public hearing date of May 27,” the councilmen wrote in a joint statement. “After six months with a proposal that has far more questions than answers, site control still in doubt and is already over budget, this plan is not ready. After all, we are talking about $80 million of public debt. In the meantime, we have schools, roads and other issues which require our local government’s attention. We extend the olive branch to the Mayor to work and find solutions to the issues that face our City.”

After the mayor’s plan was withdrawn, Council Member Baliles said he would be willing to reconsider if he receives all the facts, but still has a major issue with the so-called moral obligation the plan places on the city.

Friday Jones lashed out after learning a majority of the council planned to vote against his proposal.

“This decision is surprising since they’ve chosen to vote against something without learning about it first,” the mayor wrote in a statement. “At no point have all City Council members been briefed on the most up-to-date information about all aspects of the plan. Council members are receiving the detailed information they requested, but most briefings have taken place in committee meetings or in lightly-attended informal sessions. Nevertheless, they now want to kill the project before hearing the information that staff, the developers and the baseball team have invested a great deal of time and expense to gather.”

Even before Tuesday’s withdrawal announcement, the mayor promised he would present “exhaustive details” of the stadium proposal on Thursday, a full two days after the scheduled vote.

“I encourage Council members to make informed decisions after Thursday, unless they simply don’t want to hear the facts,” the mayor said.

29 comments

  • Ron Melancon

    Will the people of Richmond voice be listened to or are they going to RAM this through with all the special NUTZY deals and favors that are hidden from the public

  • Becky

    Wikipedia, Richmond City Mayor, Dwight Clinton Jones.
    Complaints of Corporate Influence and Favoritism arose after Jones’ 2008 election when the Mayor supported construction of a new city
    jail by City Central LLC. City Central LLC was a consortium of individuals and corporations which were major contributors to Jones 2008 election campaign.
    On February 16, 2010, City Central LLC submitted an Unsolicited Proposal to build a new jail. Although the city of Richmond had
    already begun the process of expanding the existing jail and had received 11 Proposals, the City Central LLC proposal was
    accepted and the eleven other submissions were Returned Unopened.
    Acceptance of the City Central LLC proposal was controversial and
    after Opposition by the City Council, additional proposals were requested by the city administration.
    Mayor Jones eventually Awarded the jail construction project to Tompkins/Ballard Joint Venture of Washington. City Council members questioned the award, claiming bias and the city had ignored its own procurement rules, and ordered an audit of the procurement process. Despite concerns and questions raised by the audit, and after Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, CAO, for Operations, Christopher
    Beschler, accepted responsibility for the procurement failures,
    the City Council approved the selection of Tompson/Ballard.
    Despite the approval, some city council members were not satisfied
    with the process. Member Bruce Tyler stated,….
    “The Mayor chose to put politics in front of people. They Rammed
    it down our throats instead of dealing with our questions.
    *Transparently: History, motives, means, clearly defined SOP/MO.

    • athynz

      Let’s see – prior to Mayor Jones pulling the plan the council was going to vote it down by one vote IF the council members were to vote as they indicated. His pulling of the plan for now the “brief the council with updated information” is a wise political move as this gives him the time to have more of those backroom dealings and perhaps grease some more palms/buy some more votes.

      What is amusing is that you have repeatedly said that the public is overwhelming in favor of his plan and yet not only did public polls say the exact opposite so did the poll on this page – even Jones knew that which is why he did his best to keep the ball park from a public referendum.

      • Mo Fiscal conservatism

        I never said that the public was “overwhelmingly in favor”, chuckles.
        I said that the people who know better and matter were overwhelmingly in favor. People like you are persuaded by the tv and conspiracy theories. The trash of the city is ruining a great opportunity because they are bored and misinformed. I don’t blame you all, I blame society for allowing you all to have a voice.
        Once it’s passed through you’ll quietly be thanking me for doing what’s best.

      • athynz

        I’m much more informed than you are Kathryn – and yes you DID in fact tell me that the public was overwhelmingly in favor of the ball park plan. I’m sorry society sucks for you – you may want to relocate where the freedoms of this society are such a burden for you – may I suggest Iraq? As for these conspiracy theories – Jones has already proven the theories to be correct. Nice try Kathryn but sit down, be quiet, and let the adults speak of matters that are above your head. You might actually learn something.

  • Glen Allen

    Vote NO now, and if and when the Mayor can provide a complete submittal, City Council can review it and act accordingly. Personally, I would rather see a referendum so that the decision belongs 100% to City taxpayers, but in either event, nothing less than a complete submittal should be accepted.

  • me

    Just another, now Transparent, trick, scheme, scam, diversion and
    stall by ALL “elected” complicit and compliant Public Servants; serving
    their “Party Donors.to Public Dollars”.
    Set up to Suit Governance is so Transparently accommodating.
    A Mayor requested tete a tete, at closing, just before Holiday, behind
    the Mayor’s Closed Government Doors, AFTER, the scheduled
    Public Richmond City Council Meeting on Tuesday. It will be accommodated, to accommodate Them; Exclusively, as Exclusive
    Party Facilitators to Enable Their Exclusive Party Donors.

  • Becky

    So Odd The Richmond City Attorney, in his Official Capacity,
    has not taken an a Legal Position or a Public Position on all
    the actions being conducted by Elected City Public Officials to
    usurp, circumvent, and derail establish, enacted, and legislated
    City Charter, rules, regulations and due proceses.

  • manalishi

    Is there a democrat anywhere that isn’t completely pathetic as a human being? Anyone? Anywhere?

    • CoolCat

      You mean more pathetic than yourself with all your asinine comments? I don’t believe there’s anyone that is more pathetic (Democrats included).

      • manalishi

        And i will never back off until democrat trash (especially you) focus on the economy. Tell yo mama.

    • Troll

      Many millions good solid democrats. They have made America great in spite of all the selfish criminal republicans. You are too ignorant to know that, or much of anything for that matter.

  • SrodAFF

    Clearly those opposed have never been to a Tides game in Norfolk, or even a Bulls game in Durham. Downtown baseball stadiums totally redefined the economics of those cities for the positive. You have to improve the economy of Richmond to improve the Income, thus more money for city services. You need to attract people from Outside the city by building things they want to attend. Was not losing the Braves a demonstration of cutting your nose off to spite your face. I love he Squirrels but the have to get off the dilapidated BLVD area!

    • athynz

      My objections have as much to do with the underhanded parts of this whole deal as much as it does the location. The Boulevard area is undergoing a revitalization and is not nearly as dilapidated as you seem to believe – there is a decent movie theater, the porn business is gone, there are more retail stores. With the Redskin’s training camp very close by a new ballpark would do much for the area. My issues with the downtown location have to do with the awful parking situation, the higher crime rate of the area, and the whole shady way Jones’ plan was undertaken including his removing it from any sort of input or referendum from the public.

      • SrodAFF

        Fair comments as I love the movies there and Buzz & Neds. However, you don’t have a large population of bankers, lawyers, and other downtown workers who can walk to a Bottom stadium, attend afternoon games, and can largely afford season tickets of there was an social element to the games. Production value of Squirels games, GREAT…now imagine than with some with consistently larger crowds. My ask… If you have never been to one , get to a Durham Bulls game. I lived there for 2 years on the 80’s, during their rise in popularity due to the movie Bull Durham. Crappy old ball park in bad part of town. Built new stadium downtown, arguably risky as it relates to crime and parking and their games are HUGE social events now. I travel there frequently and try to plan my trips around home games to take my friends and co-workers. Charlotte got it right too as they are currently building a new stadium downtown. Then there is Richmond City process and less than stellar economic impact analysis and decisions…UGH!

      • Frank Smith

        Sorry, you’re deluding yourself. First, you talk about a movie theater that sits 1/3 of a mile away from the ballpark, you have to walk past the bus garage (so lovely) and then over a railroad bridge, then along a guardrail several hundred feet long, in front of a building without windows to get to it. Then you list the Porn business that is nearly a full mile away. Are you kidding? There simply isn’t anything of value there, and it is NOT undergoing any kind of re-vitalization. Let’s look at the other side of the street. Well, there is a business there – not a consumer business of any kind. There is a consumer business next door to that, however – it’s the Greyhound Bus terminal. So sweet, let’s hang there after a game and talk to the people waiting to leave town.

        Again, you are clueless about what’s there, and don’t really understand what it means to go out for a fun and safe evening. I would start my evening perhaps a block away from the ballpark (after a safe and interesting walk), then on to the ballpark, then have a drink or a nice walk along the canal. There simply is no comparison at all.

  • me

    2013 Population of Richmond: 211,172 versus 2,000 ball fans.
    Developers have alway been Free to develop on the Boulevard
    or Bottom IF they were at all interested in following procedures.
    Both have been there a really long time…with nothing. That is
    until there was a The Plan, the unsubstantiated “agreement”
    with the Squirrels, the support, promise, backroom, down and
    dirty deals through All Government Officials to ensure Party
    Donors would benefit, enrich themselves, with Party Support,
    Carte Blanch and absolutely NO Rules. Positively(?) Richmond.

    • SrodAFF

      ACCEPT, not many more than 1% of that population live within 1 mile of either location, so those most impacted are about even to the 2000 fans. I don’t live in the City, proud to admit it. Have spent most of my 43 years in the Metro Area and why would I live in the City? Highest taxes, worst schools, public safety, and city services. Just look at the Coliseum…who even performs there anymore…no one because who wants to perform in an outdated dump. The Diamond…great memories but outdated. This is about economics and attracting folks to the economic core of the City, downtown, and not politics. Look at the great things downtown…Browns Island, Rockets Landing, The National…. Revitalization can be done downtown….including baseball.

  • me

    Nice “Positively Richmond” speech. But tired of being accused
    of being AGAINST Richmond, against any and all progress,
    against the beauty, love, and benevolence that can only, solely, exclusively, can be granted, bestowed, painted and presented
    by the Perfectly Correct Party paint brush of promises/lies/
    cheats. Proudly orchestrated of, by, and through their bought
    Down & Dirty Government Officials..
    If it was so great, so wonderful, they would NOT Have to CHEAT,
    Lie, subvert, circumvent, derail, and target those that don’t Agree.
    Don’t agree with Covert Government by Donor Friends looking for Enrichment from Public Coffers, by taking Our Vote and Rights Away.
    –We did NOT “elect” Consortiums of Special Exclusive Interests.
    Richmond Population: 211,172 vs 2,000 Ball Fans.
    Richmond Population: 211,171 vs 2% Bike Riders.
    Know every Consortiums’ Board Members name, their positions,
    their occupations. Know every repetitive Big Corp, Lobbyists, Donors,
    Contributors and all their Partnered Propaganda Advertising Agencies,
    and customary writers.
    Know that The Mayor, The Richmond City Council, The Squirrels,
    Nutzy, UIC Bikes Over-Ride Rules with City Shut Downs…
    for Exclusive Special, Tax Exempt, Interest running …
    their Games Their Way, Without Public Say have… ALL…have
    LEFT a really bad taste and smell that permaneates their Exclusive Positively(?) Richmond.
    Forwarded.. Agenda…by any means necessary: Over Ride, Over Rule, by Over Bearing “Benevolent” Brow-Beating, Ramrodding, and
    continuous Chinese Water Torture Tactics.
    Just as Party has a “Can’t Touch Dis! Policy for Transparent
    Democratic Corruption and GIFTGATE(S); and Tax Exempts
    that DO ENGAGE IN POLITICS, illegally,
    NO Longer condone Positively(?) Richmond Attitude and Not
    LovingRVA’s ease of it all, as deliberately Set Up to Suit..

  • Ard Vaark

    ” I would start my evening perhaps a block away from the ballpark (after a safe and interesting walk), then on to the ballpark, then have a drink or a nice walk along the canal. There simply is no comparison at all.”

    Safe and interesting? What planet are you on?

    We are talking Shockoe Bottom not the Elysian Fields.

  • tjallen

    If enough private individuals want a ballpark and see value in the proposal, then they can build one on their private land anytime, no one is stopping them.

  • Drew Nickell

    If they couldn’t fill City Stadium, Parker Field, The Diamond and The Coliseum, then why in the sand hill would they want to spend the money to build another one?

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