Whatever solution is chosen for The Diamond, the inescapable cry will come: Show me the money!
Robert Ukrop says it could be raised by the Metropolitan Area Planning Strategy (MAPS), an omnibus public-private initiatives package.
This regional money generating process started several years ago as a way for a Florida sports promoter to build a stadium. And it has proven successful in more than a dozen states in supporting a variety of spending projects, many of them anchored by culture and entertainment.
In other regions, MAPS used a small sales tax increase, at least 1 cent, for a limited time to raise a huge amount of money for projects in several localities. A MAPS-style initiative, encompassing Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and potentially Hanover, could raise $1 billion in five years.
Everybody who put something in the community pot would benefit.
"That's the only way I can see a $50 million stadium plan, or whatever it ultimately is, really working," Ukrop says, "as part of something bigger and beneficial to everybody. If you take like $700 million, and, just for example, include a cultural center in Chesterfield, a soccer stadium in Hanover, and improving schools and roads everywhere, then it makes sense. I think the public is smarter than the politicians, and they can see the benefits."
MAPS built an $80 million downtown stadium in Memphis,
"A temple," the R-Braves Bruce Baldwin says. "The Taj Mahal," Ukrop adds.
In Oklahoma City, its midtown stadium anchors a canal. Louisville's Slugger Field, which opened in 2000, also built with a MAPS-style backing, converted a rundown warehouse district into a sparkling point of civic pride. "It wasn't easy at first," Baldwin says. "There was some political flack, but, now its up, and everybody is taking credit."
MAPS was first proposed for the Richmond region in late 1998 as a way to fund a raft of issues that otherwise would have required separate and potentially difficult bond efforts.
MAPS would with one fell swoop generate funds for road and bridges improvements, mass transit, public schools, airport expansion, support for vital physical improvements for places like the Carpenter Center — and The Diamond.
For The Diamond dilemma, it would be important for MAPS to begin prior to the 2004 deadline. If the state legislature gives its go ahead, the public could vote in the spring or even the fall about whether they wanted the MAPS solution.
MAPS was scheduled to go before the 1999-2000 General Assembly, but the coalition of the Greater Richmond Partnership, various chambers of commerce and development departments, chose not to make MAPS a no-tax martyr.
"A great deal hinges on this [gubernatorial] election,"
Ukrop says. "Either Mark Warner and Mark Earley have to sign off on MAPS. You see, it's not just about The Diamond. It's about our future."