Mayor announces Shockoe stadium plan

Posted at 6:56 AM, Nov 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-11 13:23:27-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Is Richmond ready to build a new minor league baseball stadium in the middle of one of its oldest neighborhoods?

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is expected to unveil his plans for a new ballpark in Richmond's Shockoe Bottom neighborhood during a Monday morning announcement.

"Mayor Jones has been exploring ways to invite people throughout the region to explore downtown Richmond and to attract the people and businesses that will fuel the future growth of the city," the mayor's press secretary wrote in an email inviting the media to Monday's announcement. "The Jones administration has made a priority of economic development and expanding the city’s tax base to mitigate the city’s documented high poverty rate of 26 percent. Monday’s announcement will involve an exciting economic development plan that will help generate jobs and opportunity."

In addition to a new multimillion dollar ballpark, CBS 6 has learned the proposal will feature a Kroger grocery store, dozens of apartments and a 120-room hotel.

“I’m thrilled with the progress that’s been made,” Richmond Flying Squirrels owner Lou Dibella said. “I’m truly excited about this announcement.”

The new ballpark would be built near Richmond Main Street Station, bordered by Broad Street, 18th Street and East Franklin Street.

The plan does have its critics.

Some worry major development in Shockoe Bottom would minimize the neighborhood's historic significance as a hub of the slave trade in pre-Civil War America.

“More than 1,600 people, about 80 percent of them Richmonders, have signed a petition opposing a Shockoe stadium because of the area’s importance to the history of people of African descent,” Phil Wilayto and Ana Edwards wrote in a media advisory last month. “In the decades leading up to the end of the Civil War, Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom was the site of the second-largest slave-trading district in the United States. The majority of African-Americans today could likely trace some ancestry to this small piece of land. It is totally inappropriate to build a commercial sports stadium on this sacred ground.”

The mayor's ballpark plan includes the construction of a Slave History Heritage Center, CBS 6 has learned.

Richmond City Councilwoman Kathy Graziano, who has been briefed on the plan, said several details remain unclear, including were baseball fans will park. She is also  concerned over how the city plans to pay for the proposed $15 million improvements to downtown Richmond's drainage system. Shockoe Bottom is prone to flooding.

“The ballpark is a great amenity for the entire region,” Graziano said. ”But it doesn’t bring revenue to the city, and we need revenue.”

Watch CBS 6 News for updates and reaction to the the mayor's announcement.

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