Lane’s World

Posted at 5:25 PM, Jul 16, 2013

Last week, I posted a story about the conversation I had with Richmond mayor Dwight Jones about the progress toward a new stadium for the Flying Squirrels. Jones has yet to unveil his plan for a new ballpark, but it’s becoming less and less of a secret that he believes the best spot is in Shockoe Bottom where Jones thinks a new stadium could help revitalize that part of the city.

Not surprisingly, many of you don’t feel the same way Jones does. Or maybe it’s just that those in dissent usually make their voices heard more than those in agreement. In either case, several of you made good points about how flawed you view Jones’ judgement to be on this matter.

Bob Moffett wrote: “When Richmond’s infrastructure clearly is crumbling, taxes, utilities rates, and fees are higher than in the better-managed surrounding jurisdictions, Jones – for reasons that have not been disclosed, albeit probably personal and political gain – persists in conspiring to force Richmond taxpayers to subsidize a new stadium Richmond cannot afford when the surrounding jurisdictions have refused and will not do so.

Lots of Richmond taxpayers do not want the city subsidizing any new stadium which would mostly appeal to non-Richmonders coming in from the surrounding counties. While this is mostly true, the tax generated revenue coming in from those fans would not be shared with Henrico, Hanover or Chesterfield either.

Moffett continued: “There is a tremendous amount of credible research that concludes tax-payer the costs of sports venues nearly always exceed their original estimated costs and almost always result in a loss of tax payer revenue.”

I mentioned that several people in City Hall claim that “you can’t buy a pair of jeans in the City”, a reference to the lack of big name retailers within the city limits. Katherine Robertson correctly pointed out that “there is a Target and a Wal-mart located on Forest Hill Avenue, inside the city limits, which I patronize faithfully.” 

My guess is that those same City officials would point out that those stores on Forest Hill do not serve the same segment of the population in Richmond that might patronize the same stores were they to spring up on the Boulevard where the Diamond now sits.

Glen had stronger words for the Mayor: “What a load of BS. Revitalize two areas? Yeah Walmart will really energize the boulevard corridor. Go ahead and build a Shockoe Bottom stadium when a sizeable segment of the patrons of the Squirrels oppose it. When attendance drops after the novelty wears off, will the squirrels stay in a new stadium with low ticket sales? May as well name it the Dwight Jones White Elephant Park”

Glen Allen added: “Note to Dwight Jones – Invest in your schools, roads, parks and public transit (including parking), and families will move to the city, and your tax base will rise naturally. Areas will revitalize as people move in and fix up the old (without tax dollars). If you still want a Target, WalMart, etc. – build it in your back yard!”

As for the Squirrels themselves, they are focused on the current season and the promise of “memory making” they make to their fans each night at the Diamond. They are also caught in the middle of the argument. After years of pleading for a new stadium, they could get it, just not in their preferred location. How much can they afford to be against what they have been asking for all this time?

If you ran/owned the Squirrels, how would you negotiate with the City?