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A chat with the man who built the Diamond

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

RICHMOND, Va. – Could a $14.74 item undo the $100 – 200 million Shockoe Stadium development “plan” being promoted by Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones?

Yesterday, a conversation about baseball in Richmond caused me to stumble upon an Internet link to a book the Mayor and his pro-stadium business community allies could not possibly have read.

It is entitled “Baseball and Richmond: A History of the Professional Game, 1884-2000.”

It has received zero reviews since being published roughly a dozen years ago.

My inadvertently discovered link took me to page 159. The lead sentence to the first full paragraph caught my eye: “The new stadium’s name “the Diamond” was selected by the SOC on December 12, 1984.”

What the heck, I mused, is this SOC?

Scrolling up to page 157 answered the question.  What the heck indeed.

It turns out, despite all the criticism heaped on me by the Mayor’s pro-stadium posse and the business community, what I have been writing and proposing for months is basically the process used to build the Diamond!

That’s right, the SOC is shorthand for the Stadium Operating Committee. It was created by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce to ensure a fair, open and transparent bidding process. Another friend of mine, active in the process back then, filled me in on details left out of the book.

Roughly half a dozen firms, all tops in the field, responded to an open bid process. The winner was picked not by and for the Mayor’s cronies, but independent experts on a level playing field.

A unique design and the cost-effective pricing only available through a true competitive bid process won the day. The stadium was built in just seven months and under the original budget.

However, I learned the book did not actually mention the real genius behind the actual construction, Mr. Thomas Hanson.

Who is Mr. Hanson? Architects only produce an idea on paper. The structural engineer is the person who actually turns the concept into reality.

Mr. Hanson created one of the most iconic pre-cast, pre-stressed [I hope I got that right] concrete structures in the country. Turns out the Diamond is an award-winner, built in a way no longer used, thus eventually to be an iconic national landmark — provided it isn’t torn down.

Yesterday, I tracked down Mr. Hanson, now in his 80’s, but as talented and friendly as ever.

We sat in his Richmond office batting around ideas on how to improve the Diamond and the area around it.

It was so kind of him to take the time, and explain how he built the Diamond, really a giant “Lego” project were he used giant cranes to put in place sometimes 100-foot long “Lego blocks” side by side.

I believe upgrading the Diamond may be the most cost-effective, pro-Richmond, future-oriented move we can make.  We can add suites and other amenities like a tarp-like roof to turn it into an all-purpose arena at times.

I am going to give the Richmond media the opportunity to let Mr. Hanson speak for himself, he doesn’t need me as the intermediary.

Richmond City Councilmen Baliles, Samuels, and Hilbert, along with their posse, have a multi-million-dollar plan to build a new baseball stadium on the Boulevard. The Mayor and his posse want to do it in Shockoe Bottom.

They are good at spending other people’s money, but have they ever actually been tangentially involved in a stadium project, much less played a major role in building one?

Back in the 1980’s, the Mayor and business community promised the public a structure to last 100 years. Mr. Hanson kept that promise. Since we paid for it, why not get our money’s worth?

Before we tear it down, is it asking too much for our leaders to talk to the one person in the city who has actually built a baseball stadium, not rely on politicians who can not, as the saying goes, tell their butts from third base?

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.

7 comments

  • John

    The Diamond had concrete breaking loose from the roof areas and dropping hundreds of feet into seats. Luckily, no one was sitting in those seats when this occurred as it would have done serious bodily harm. I believe this has happened on more than one occasion. Do you consider this to be a concern?

  • john smith

    they should just tear down the diamond and rebuild it like they did before. all the needed factors are already there such as, parking, restaurants, ez highway access, a movie theatre, hotels and I would imagine the land should already be paid since there has been a ballpark on the site for about 50 years or so. don’t let the mayor and his cronies fill their pockets with our money!!! REBUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME!!!

  • Dan Chapman

    In a landlocked city the mayor is trying to do what’s best for all. Without county support (but they will use the facility), he is developing a plan to not only provide baseball venue, as promised, but to inclrease the tax base so that the city will have money to address other pressing issues such as schools. How long are we to look at that depressing empty expanse that lies at the bottom of Broad Street hill?

    • Glen Allen

      I do not think the mayor is trying to do what is best for the City at all, I think the mayor is trying to do what is best for the mayor. If the mayor wanted to do what is best for the taxpayers, he would have opened the development, design, and construction to competition instead of hand-picking those who would get the tax payers money. There is never a valid reason to intentionally skip the bidding process when it comes to work paid for by the taxpayer. Never!

      • Rob

        THE REAL DEAL ON BIDS FOR THE REVITALIZE RVA PROJECT:

        In response to misinformation being pushed by some, here are the facts on how each component of the project will be bid and built:

        1. Slavery Heritage Site – this project will involve public dollars, with money coming from both the City and the State. There will be a competitive bid process for this project.

        2. Ballpark – this facility will be owned by the City’s Economic Development Authority (EDA). The EDA is required to follow a public bidding process, which will be used in soliciting bids for this project.

        3. Neighboring residential and commercial development – this portion of the Plan involves private companies using private dollars to build on privately-owned land. As such, these companies are not governed by the public procurement act. However, they have contractually agreed to certain significant provisions to benefit minority firms. Specifically, i) minimum guaranteed use of minority contractors in their projects and ii) a guaranteed minimum ownership of the project by minority investors.

      • Richmond Allen

        Hey Rob:
        There’s the Alliance Group, there’s Venture Richmond’s own marketing specialists, and there branding guru Andy Stefanovich who is a new addition to your team, and then there Matthew Davey. Matthew Davey is clearly affiliated with and has hosted events in conjunction with LovingRVA. Is he your employee? Matthew Davey has this to say:
        “[The project] is funded by a municipal bond which is paid for by the developers. I’m getting tired of repeating this.”
        That seems wrong to me. Does that seems at all fishy to you?

  • Bridgforth Allen

    The roof incident is a red herring. One piece of concrete fell one time from the cantilevered roof after Hurricane Isabel 10 years ago. That is just a maintenance issue. The superstructure of the Diamond is as solid as a castle. The stadium is constructed of prefab concrete block and will last another 100 years. You don’t tear down a building just because it needs a roof repair. The advantage of the Diamond is that it already exists, and it’s accessible.

    Paul, thanks for the link to the Daniel and Mayer book. It is good reading.

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