The ever-polarizing issue of the possibility of a new baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom was on
The ever-polarizing issue of the possibility of a new baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom was on full display at last night’s City Council meeting.
Two ordinances, each of which acquires land back to the City of Richmond immediately near The Diamond on Boulevard, were adopted unanimously by City Council. Many citizens believe that the land is being transferred for a development on Boulevard to make way for a new home for the Flying Squirrels in Shockoe Bottom.
Council President Charles Samuels says that the City’s acquisition of the land will cost nothing, and that it was land the City’s already owned, but many citizens were fervent there are bigger issues in the Richmond, citing homelessness, sidewalk conditions and broken traffic lights, instead of a new home for the Flying Squirrels.
Ron Skinner, a citizen speaking in opposition to the ordinances, said he was pleased with how poverty levels have gone down, but still had concerns about the Council’s judgement.
“It may not continue to be the case if we spend lots and lots of money on iffy projects. And I don’t mean iffy projects just because I don’t like playing baseball, but I mean building a stadium on ground in advance, not even knowing where the slave containment area was, without even wanting to know,” Skinner said.
“I think it’s very unfortunate that we feel like we have to move right now when we don’t know the facts. It feels very much like a steamroller. I hope we can put the brakes on a little bit and make sure we’ve done our homework correctly.”
What Skinner alluded to was a popular cause of concern for those who oppose the idea of a stadium in the Bottom as well as those who are in support – the historical value of the area.
In the 1800’s, Shockoe Bottom was a slave trading post, and while it’s not a proud history, many citizens felt like it still deserves to be preserved.
Brian Cannon, a local attorney, spoke in favor of a stadium in the Bottom, but also about the importance of preserving history.
“I think it’s the most viable option we may (have) to generate more revenue for the city and memorialize what happened there as far as the slave trade,” Cannon said.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to wants to preserve that history and it’s really important. I used to live down there a decade ago and no one was doing anything to preserve that history down there, and they haven’t for the last decade. And the one thing that’s getting momentum is a baseball stadium. If that’s what it takes, that’s great. Let’s get it done,”
Councilman Parker Agelasto expressed his concern that The Diamond may end up collecting dust like City Stadium in RVA’s Carrilon neighborhood.
“Having City Stadium sit in fifth district and having seen the condition of that facility at the time the University of Richmond vacated the property… and if the building goes down the path of City Stadium, we may be stuck with the decision of, ‘What do we do with the run-down stadium?’,” Agelasto said.
Debates about the future of baseball in Richmond will only get more impassioned with time, and concerned citizen Mark Lewis simply asked that the Council leave no stone unturned in the process.
“I hope all of the Council members make wise decisions in these next few weeks. I want to make sure that you take your time and be mindful of the residents this can impact, and how we treasure this city,” Lewis said.
“I want to make sure you take the time and be thoughtful for the people you represent.”
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