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VCU, Minor League Team Working Toward Ballpark

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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Virginia Commonwealth University and the Richmond Flying Squirrels agreed last September to a nonbinding memorandum of understanding, expressing mutual interest in exploration of the feasibility of a new ballpark for one year.

With the anniversary approaching, they apparently haven't swung and missed.

VCU and the Squirrels play home games at The Diamond, which opened in 1985. The document, dated Sept. 28, 2016, represents "a good-faith acknowledgement of the parties' current intentions as to the development, construction and use of a new baseball stadium and a commitment from each party to work collaboratively with the other in regard to the matters contained herein for a period of one year."

The MOU was signed by Ed McLaughlin, VCU's vice president and director of athletics, and Lou DiBella, the Squirrels' president and managing general partner. On Monday, McLaughlin and DiBella said VCU and the Squirrels are still working and the joint effort will extend beyond this Sept. 28.

"The date is a guideline, not a deadline," said McLaughlin. "We have a solid group of parties who continue to make excellent progress on this project and we look forward to more good news in the future."

DiBella said, "There is no magic to Sept. 28. ... We can extend that document or handle it in a way that's (agreeable to all) parties.

"I still believe we have a coalition of people working toward the same goal, something that works for everyone."

Neither VCU nor the Squirrels has offered a detailed public update since the MOU was released. The MOU estimates the cost of design, development and construction of a ballpark at $55 million, and forecasts that it could accommodate non-athletic activities, "such as concerts, festivals or other community events."

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Virginia continues to consider replacing its Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control headquarters and distribution warehouse across Hermitage Road from The Diamond, potentially opening 21.5 acres of state property for a new stadium operated by VCU and the Squirrels, and other VCU athletics facilities.

The state received 15 proposals for replacing the ABC complex. The operation could remain on Hermitage Road in an expanded form, or move elsewhere near an interstate highway in the region. The ABC and General Services are expected to deliver a set of options to the governor and General Assembly by Nov. 1.

In the MOU, VCU is designated as the party intending to "explore the feasibility of acquiring land, or facilitating the acquisition of land, for the development and construction of new athletic facilities (likely through collaboration with other public or private entities), to include a new baseball stadium located in close proximity to the current location of The Diamond."

Other entities involved in the project, according to the MOU, "may include, but are not limited to, the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of Richmond, other municipalities or authorities, and private developers and investors."

When the Squirrels announced in mid-July that the 2019 Eastern League All-Star Game will be played at The Diamond, EL president Joe McEacharn said he sensed "real movement and optimism" around the Richmond ballpark situation. "Things seem to be lining up," he said. "We seem to have support from surrounding communities. I think the right people are at the party."

The EL moved the Double-A franchise from Norwich, Conn., to Richmond on Sept. 23, 2009, with the understanding that steady progress toward a new ballpark would be made. There have been many previous ballpark plans that dissolved for various reasons. The Squirrels invested several million dollars over the years in upgrades to The Diamond.

joconnor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6233@RTDjohnoconnor

Virginia Commonwealth University and the Richmond Flying Squirrels agreed last September to a nonbinding memorandum of understanding, expressing mutual interest in exploration of the feasibility of a new ballpark for one year. With the anniversary approaching, they apparently haven't swung and missed.
 
 
September 13, 2017
 
 
 

 

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