Richmond Flying Squirrels in talks to build Shockoe Bottom stadium

Posted at 11:23 AM, Jul 31, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-03 13:40:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The Richmond Flying Squirrels are in talks to build a minor league baseball stadium in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom neighborhood, Flying Squirrels Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Todd "Parney" Parnell told CBS 6.

Specific details of the plan, in terms of size, scope and cost have not yet been released.

"This city deserves something where people can puff their chests out, but I'm talking athletic facilities," said Parnell.

Parnell said the Squirrels are ready for a change and excited the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce was interested in helping the team find a new place to play baseball.

"The mayor, specifically, knows the value that the Squirrels bring to the table," said Parnell.  "(He) knows how hard we work in the community and realizes that the right thing to do is to move forward, and to go ahead and build a ballpark some place."

When the Flying Squirrels moved to Richmond in 2010, both the team and the Eastern League said the current stadium -- the Diamond -- was no longer a viable minor league baseball stadium. Built in 1986, the Diamond has undergone several renovations over the years.

"I don't think the size matters as much," said Parnell.  "I think what matters is what's inside it.  How many concessions stands? How many bathrooms?  The space between seats, so you are more comfortable.  The style of seat.  The kid zone are for the kids.  Plus if you live in the Bottom and you have a three-year old kid, who's not going to want Nutzy to be living in your neighborhood?"

A Shockoe Bottom stadium plan has been discussed -- in various forms -- over the last decade. It was studied in 2003 when the Richmond Braves asked the city to build a new downtown stadium. It was proposed again in 2005 when developers wanted to make a new stadium part of a larger  $330 million Shockoe complex. Neither effort made it past the planning stage.

The Shockoe Bottom location raised traffic and parking concerns from some people who nearby. There were also questions about how the developments would be funded.

David Napier, President of Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association, told CBS 6 reporter Sandra Jones he supported the idea of baseball in Shockoe Bottom in the past and he supports the most recent effort.

Tammy Hawley, a spokeswoman for Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, said it was too early to comment on the possibility of moving the Flying Squirrels to Shockoe Bottom.

This is a developing story.