Mayor Jones Proposes New Stadium, But A Crowd Says No

by | Nov 11, 2013 | POLITICS

Mayor Jones spoke before a large crowd at a press conference this morning with his big pitch for a new baseball stadium and the future of Shockoe Bottom.


Mayor Jones spoke before a large crowd at a press conference this morning with his big pitch for a new baseball stadium and the future of Shockoe Bottom.

The $200 million project includes a new ballpark, a “Slavery & Freedom Heritage Site,” the African Burial Ground, Slave Trail, a new grocery store (full-sized Kroger) and hotel (Hyatt), new parking garage, apartments, and finally, a 17th street promenade.

A press release sent out this morning gave some insight into the Mayor’s hopes for the project:

“The plan will generate almost $200 million in net new revenue over the next 20 years,” said Mayor Jones. “That’s money we can invest in public schools, transportation, public safety, and all of the attributes of a Tier One city.”

“My job as Mayor is to move Richmond forward, and not leave anyone behind. By developing Shockoe in an innovative and historically sensitive way, we will be able to unlock the potential of two of the most valuable pieces of land on the East Coast. This is good news for the city and ties directly into our efforts to help mitigate poverty by providing jobs and opportunity,” Jones concluded.

Jone’s speech went on to detail some of the economic impacts of the project, and to explain why the Shockoe plan was prefered over rebuilding the stadium along the Boulevard.

“The Boulevard Ballpark scenario would generate an estimated $5 – $6 million in net new tax revenues to the City each year. The Shockoe Ballpark would generate $10 million in net new tax revenue each year after covering all ballpark costs. Over the life of the debt, the Shockoe scenario will generate $187 million in net new revenue – or twice as much as the Boulevard option. The plan has no negative impact on our debt limits, or our recently upgraded bond ratings, because the project is essentially self supporting. Clearly, this is far better for taxpayers,” said Mayor Jones.

Virginia Delegate Delores McQuinn (D-7) was in attendance to support the Mayor’s proposal. She had worked to develop the Richmond Slave Trail Commission and said she was excited about this new proposal, especially the proposed Slavery & Freedom Heritage Museum.

“Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of proposals for how to develop this area,” said McQuinn. “I’m convinced this is the right one… this is the right one for Richmond because it talks to the possibility of telling an American story the right way…. I believe this is the one chance to honor our history in a big way and I’m excited about it… this is a moment to transform Richmond.”

It was hard to hear these words, however. For every one supporter of the stadium at the meeting this morning, there was at least one person there to say no, and they were not afraid to let the Mayor know how they felt. Through out the speakers, the crowd was heard chanting “No stadium on sacred ground!” or simply yelling “SHAME!”

“I’m here for my ancestors. To try and preserve our glorious history, and the Native American’s history,” said Kwalb Binta. He expressed many concerns over the construction of a new stadium – from the road congestion that already exists in the bottom, to the fact that the area is a flood zone.

“It needs to be developed,” said Binta. “But not a baseball field. What needs to be developed is the history here. Where this country started.”

Next to Binta stood Maat Free, who stood with a sign asking the Mayor “to make these decisions with us!” Free works with Guardians of Ancestor Remembrance and The Beloved Unseen, both groups that work with the history of African American’s in the Richmond area.

“I heard the museum, which they now want to call the Slave History Heritage Center, is tied into a 200 million dollar tie-in with the development of the ball field,” said Free. “And there has been not been any consideration of what the community wants to see in that effort. Even the language that’s being used to define commemoration of enslavement of our ancestors is disrespectful.”

Free also took issue with the campaign being used to support the stadium- Loving RVA. T-shirts were handed out showing the campaign’s logo, and Free said she’d love to be able to wear one, but not if it stands for the proposed project.

“I do love RVA, but I feel like if I was to be involved in that, it would be a be like conciliatory effort on my part to say that I’m down with the bulldozing of people who are in opposition of what’s happening,” said Free.

Free was one of the many people who called out the Mayor during his speech. She admitted this kind of action was not something she was proud of, but the lack of conversation she and her fellow protestors have had with the Mayor required such drama.

“It’s disrespectful to be screaming over the Mayor, but if you can’t get him to hear you any other way, then I’m absolutely all for it… It’s sad we’ve come to this point… He’s making these decisions for us, and I’m not for that.”

But not all were in opposition to the Mayor’s proposal. Anne Poarch came from her home in the near West End to show her support. A mother of RVA little leaguers, Poarch said she liked the proposal’s goal to highlight Richmond’s diverse history and compared the plan to the successful work done at Canal Walk.

“What we’ve done with the development around the James River, which is really the birth place of America – the Europeans, the Native Americans, the African Americans who came in chains – we have a place to tell that story, and we’re not gonna do it if all we do is talk about it,” said Poarch. “Sometimes that means bringing people here for a ballpark, but maybe they’ll leave and go over and look at Lumpkins, look at the museum. Because if we don’t preserve it, 20 years from now, someone else could come and build right over it.”

The next steps for the future of a ballpark, as well as the proposed slave museum and the rest of Shockoe Bottom, include a number of votes at upcoming city council meetings. The Mayor has also promised a series of “community engagement meetings” to help expand the conversation about the stadium with the people of Richmond.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner is the former editor of GayRVA and RVAMag from 2013 - 2017. He’s now the Richmond Bureau Chief for Radio IQ, a state-wide NPR outlet based in Roanoke. You can reach him at BradKutnerNPR@gmail.com




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