The latest twist in the city’s efforts to choose a site for a new minor league baseball stadium may bring the counties to the negotiating table.
Richmond City Council unanimously approved a resolution at Monday’s meeting requesting that Mayor Dwight C. Jones seek “regional participation from Chesterfield County, Hanover County, and Henrico County in the city’s efforts to develop a minor leagues baseball stadium at a location within the Richmond region.” Introduced last September, the resolution passed with no discussion from council members.
Because the majority of Richmond Flying Squirrels fans who attend games travel into the city from the surrounding counties, the stadium should be viewed as a regional amenity, says Councilman Charles Samuels, 2nd district.
“I don’t think the counties are going to pay for an economic development deal in the city out of the goodness of their heart,” he says. “There would have to be something in [the deal] to make sense for them.”
Samuels co-patroned the resolution with Jon Baliles, 1st district, and Ellen Robertson, 6th district. Neither Baliles nor Robertson returned requests for comment as of press time.
The resolution does not require the mayor to act, but signals council’s wishes for him to do so, says Councilman Parker Agelasto, 5th district. “I think the gist of it is, it didn’t change a thing,” he says.
Tammy Hawley, the mayor’s spokeswoman, says the city and counties communicate “all the time about matters.”
“The mayor will act when the time is right on stadium related matters,” Hawley wrote in an email.
In his state of the city address delivered in late January, the mayor told those in attendance he “won’t have an update until the time is right” on his plan for a new stadium.
In November 2013, Jones introduced his plan to build a new stadium in Shockoe Bottom for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. His proposal drew the ire of activists and preservationists concerned with the area’s history as a slave-trading district. Others opposed it because of parking concerns and the site’s designation as a flood zone. Jones withdrew the plan last May after council support for it dwindled, but publicly promised to reintroduce it.
Short of scrapping the Shockoe plan and choosing a new site, how the counties could fit into the mayor’s plans remain unclear. Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas says he isn’t aware of any ongoing regional collaboration related to the stadium.
"We are reading the same information in the newspaper as others,” Vithoulkas wrote in an email response to a request for comment about council’s resolution. “There have been no conversations with Henrico or, to my knowledge, our other regional partners. We are always open to honest and complete dialogue."
Council continued another measure put forth by Baliles and Samuels related to city-owned land on the Boulevard. If passed, it would ask the city’s chief administrative officer to issue a request for proposals to select a development company for property near the Diamond. Council is scheduled to take up the matter at its next meeting on Monday, Feb. 23.