New venue to replace losing sheen The Diamond



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New baseball stadium for Richmond Image: City of Richmond

Before the Diamond District, there was the Shockoe Bottom (neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia, US) ballpark.

‘Richmond Times-Dispatch’ stated that nearly a decade after the ill-fated plans for a baseball stadium near downtown fell apart, Richmond is now closer than ever to building a new stadium to replace The Diamond.

The 12,134-capacity The Diamond is a baseball stadium located in Richmond, Virginia, US, on Arthur Ashe Boulevard. It is the home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels of the Eastern League and the Virginia Commonwealth University baseball team.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels are a Minor League Baseball (MiLB) team based in Richmond, Virginia, US. The team, which is a part of the Eastern League, is the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants major league club, and plays at The Diamond.

On September 13th, at an event announcing the selection of a developer to build a new stadium on Arthur Ashe Boulevard by 2025 and redevelop the site around it for $2.4 billion, the Flying Squirrels President and General Manager, Lou DiBella, wiped a tear from his eye thinking about how long it took to reach this point – “I’m not going to tell you I didn’t have moments of doubt that we would get here, but they went away with time because we have never felt anything but love for the City. We weren’t willing to go somewhere else. I’m so relieved. And I’m so happy.”

DiBella’s emotions at the presser evince how the City has struggled to adopt plans for a new stadium to replace The Diamond, which was built in 1985 and no longer meet Major League Baseball (MLB) facility standards.

While the former Mayor of Richmond, Dwight Jones, and his administration in 2013 reintroduced plans to build a new stadium for the Double-A team in Shockoe Bottom, the idea met fierce resistance from the local residents.

‘Richmond Times-Dispatch’ further stated that critics said a new stadium would be a misuse of public resources. Some said it also felt disrespectful, as the City has historically done little to commemorate Shockoe Bottom’s legacy as the nation’s second-largest slave market in the decades leading up to the U.S. Civil War.

Jones eventually withdrew his plans for the stadium there. A few local developers then floated the idea of building a new stadium on Arthur Ashe Boulevard. Most local residents in a series of community meetings in 2016 said they liked that idea. But the plans never came together.

DiBella said the Mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney, told him he wanted to help the team stay when he was elected six years ago but that DiBella needed to be patient. He said the Mayor wanted to make sure he could pitch a project that would benefit the public and be widely accepted.

Stated Stoney, “We knew how important it was to get this right. There are a lot of faces here today (September 13th) that knows what I’m talking about. We’ve been at bat many times and struck out. But we’re not striking out anymore. This is about hitting home runs.”

The City Council must still approve the terms of the project, which needs at least seven of its nine members to approve the transfer of public property to the selected development team, RVA Diamond Partners. Seven of them are signed on as patrons on legislation to approve the partnership.

The Second District Councilwoman Katherine Jordan, who represents the area where The Diamond is located and worked on the City panel that selected the development team, said she is “excited” for the project.

Though Jordan was first elected to the Council in 2020, she acknowledged that the project has been anticipated for many years – “We listened when you said you didn’t want it in Shockoe Bottom. We heard you when you said you wanted baseball on Arthur Ashe Boulevard. And we heard you through during the Richmond 300 process that you wanted mixed-income, mixed-use development.”

Holding a baseball she found in The Diamond parking lot when details about the developer selection process were announced last February, she reiterated that the project needs to be a team effort – “I’m going to continue carrying it until we are opening our new baseball stadium and welcoming our new families and residents. If I carry this baseball alone, if the Council carries it alone, we won’t get there. We need every one of you to continue cheerleading for this project, continuing to say you want growth in Richmond and more inclusive neighborhoods. … So, let’s not be scared of change. Let’s be excited for what’s next for the City.”
 

Background

‘City of Richmond’ stated that the City of Richmond is seeking to redevelop 67.57 acres of underdeveloped, publicly-owned property along the I-95 East Coast corridor into a mixed-use, mixed-income entertainment destination. The City has been preparing for a redevelopment of this strategic site for a number of years and, in the process, has relocated City functions, demolished buildings and remediated the site with the exception of the baseball stadium and the 6,000-capacity Arthur Ashe Junior Athletic Center in Richmond, Virginia.
 

Development Partner Selected!

After a nine-month solicitation process that garnered 15 submissions from nationwide developers, the City has selected RVA Diamond Partners LLC as the development team to partner with the City to fulfill the vision for the Diamond District.

‘City of Richmond’ further stated that the three finalists were invited to submit a response to the Diamond District Request for Offers (RFO). This RFO is an extension and part of the process commenced via the issuance of a Request for Interest (‘RFI’) on December 28th, 2021, to solicit creative development responses from highly capable, financially sound and experienced development teams interested in redeveloping the Diamond District, and the Request for Additional Information (‘RFAI’) to seek additional more-detailed information from the selected six RFAI Invitees. On February 15th, 2022, the City received 15 submissions in response to the RFI. The Evaluation Panel reviewed the 15 submissions based upon the evaluation criteria set forth in the RFI and selected six development teams to respond to the RFAI and continue in the evaluation process. On May 10th, 2022, the City announced three development teams as finalists invited to respond to this RFO (‘RFO Respondent’).
 

Vision

Richmond 300 paints a vivid picture of a more connected, Green and equitable development of the Diamond District. In this vision, The Diamond is demolished and a new multipurpose stadium is constructed. New buildings provide employment, retail and mixed-income housing. A new street grid incorporates features that create a walkable urban experience with engaging architecture and urban design. Visitors to Greater Scott’s Addition have the option to safely arrive by foot, bike, transit, or car. Parking is centralized in a few parking garages to encourage users to park once and visit multiple destinations. A signature park between Ashe and Hermitage serves as a central convening space and is connected with greenways to multiple smaller public parks. The redeveloped Diamond District connects to adjacent established neighborhoods and redeveloping neighborhoods.

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