Protesters not impressed with mayor’s ballpark plan

Posted at 3:22 PM, Nov 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-11 15:35:19-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – One of the most outspoken groups against Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones’ plan to build a new baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom BEFORE the plan was formally announcement, remains against the plan after Monday’s announcement.

“We are totally opposed to this desecration of a site made sacred by mass human suffering. On this there can be no compromise,” Phil Wilayto wrote in an email. “Instead, we reiterate our call that Shockoe Bottom be developed as a historic district and educational tourism destination center that could bring far more economic benefits to Richmond than a double-A baseball stadium while avoiding another shameful instance of the City disrespecting its African-American history.”

As part of his plan, Mayor Jones said the city would support a $30 million Slavery and Freedom Heritage Site to educate future generations of Richmond’s role in the slave trade. An idea that underwhelmed Wilayto.

“There is no way the enormity of the human tragedy that took place here less than 150 years ago could be told by shoe-horning a museum into this project,” he wrote. “Right field of the proposed stadium would sit on the site of a slave jail owned by the notorious trader Silas Omohundro. Any token tip of the hat to this history would itself be a desecration of this sacred ground.”

Wilayto said he doubted the “economic benefits” the mayor said the ballpark would provide.

“It’s clear what’s really at stake,” he wrote. “A small group of wealthy developers want the land now occupied by the Diamond on North Boulevard, along with a commercial project that would greatly increase the value of their already substantial holdings in Shockoe Bottom. Since no one would support this proposal if it were honestly described, Mayor Jones and the public relations firm hired by Venture Richmond have crafted a message that a stadium project would somehow address the city’s 26 percent poverty rate.

Wilayto summed up his feelings with one final line.

“In the end, it doesn’t matter what bribes or incentives the mayor offers – a museum, supermarket, more condos, more retail shops – it’s just morally wrong to play games on the site of mass human suffering,” he wrote.