Mayors playbook to make Richmond a sports city

Posted at 11:57 PM, Mar 13, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-14 13:45:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--From Virginia Commonwealth University heading back to the NCAA tournament, to the possibility that the Washington Redskins will move their training camp to Richmond, it’s been an exciting few days for local sports fans.

Now we’re learning Richmond’s mayor would like to lure another professional sports franchise to the city, a WNBA team.

Dwight Jones says the VCU Rams Cinderella story last year has paved the way for other big possibilities for this city, including a potential new home for the Richmond Flying Squirrels minor league baseball team, and the Redskins’ possible relocation.

Who could forget VCU’s historic run in 2011, with Rams’ fans frolicking in the streets?

The city’s spirit was literally on national display.

That’s what Jones talked about on Wes McElroy’s afternoon sports talk show on AM-910 Tuesday: how the Rams’ success opened many doors for Richmond.  He hopes coach Shaka Smart will lead the Rams deep into the tournament again.

“Sports has a unifying effect,” said Jones.  “[It]brings people together.  The more sports, the better our city will be."

And “better” for baseball fans could mean a new nest for the Flying Squirrels.

The timeline is not set, but the city is starting to shuffle things around to make room.

“Whenever the deal is ready, we'll be ready to play ball,” said Jones. “Of course it's going to be a regional deal."

And then there’s talk of the ‘Skins potential boon to the area.  “They initiated the contact,” said Jones.  “They're looking to be entrenched in Virginia as well as DC, so they are looking for a place to train."

Fans say all three sports stories make it sound like Richmond is already winning the game.

“Trying to bring the Skins camp here, there's a lot of skins fans in town,” said Lydell Moseley.  “I'm a Dolphins’ fan, but it would be good for the economy."

“People may not like VCU but you can appreciate what they offer,” said Shelby Ray .  “They're not a big D-1 School like Duke or UNC but they are generating a big team following."

The mayor says they’re using a lump sum payment from the RMA to help pay down the city’s debt, making it easier to get low-interest loans to help in future investments.

And could there be more?

Jones also mentioned the idea of a new basketball venue, saying the Rams have proven Central Virginians love basketball.  And if that facility were big enough, maybe, just maybe, someone else might like to play there as well