Potential ABC headquarters relocation reignites new ballpark speculation

RICHMOND, Va. -- Although new ballpark talk in Richmond was reignited by a Friday announcement, officials said Monday to expect more infield chatter than shovels in the dirt when in comes to building replacement stadium for the aging Diamond facility on Boulevard.

Virginia ABC and DGS (Department of General Services) announced their preferred location for a new ABC headquarters and distribution warehouse, potentially freeing up the current Hermitage Road facility, long eyed as a potential location for a new baseball stadium near the Diamond.

The ABC's preferred site for relocation is located approximately 10 miles from ABC’s existing Richmond administrative offices and warehouse, at the intersection of Pole Green Road and I-295 in Mechanicsville. A separate, 95,000-square-foot office building and an approximately 315,000-square-foot warehouse will be built on the site.

However, officials with DGS said funding for a new faculty has not been approved by the General Assembly yet. It is included in the current budget bill lawmakers are considering.

Although ABC and DGS have selected a developer for the new facility, a formal agreement would not be reached until later this summer, and the Mechanicsville site would not open until 2021 at the earliest, officials said.

ABC headquarters would remain in operation at the Hermitage Rd. location until then.

In 2016, City of Richmond officials, VCU, and the Flying Squirrels signed onto an agreement to build a new ballpark and keep the minor league franchise in Richmond for 30 years. The $50-60 million venue would be built to accommodate non-athletic events.  VCU and the Squirrels would be "major contributors" financially under the agreement.

Since that announcement, few details of the plan have been publicly discussed, and Monday that continued.

"We continue to examine several options for a new ballpark with our partners and remain optimistic. We look forward to a solution in the near future," a spokesperson for VCU said in a statement to CBS 6.

Squirrels fan Dennis O'Connell is more excited about opening day for baseball in Richmond than the potential for a new stadium since he has seen ballpark plans spring up and fizzle out in the past.

"There have been opportunities, frankly, missed in the past," he said. "I don't think it's really where [the Flying Squirrels] want to be, but I think for what they have they've done pretty well."