A chat with the man who built the Diamond

Posted at 10:21 AM, Jul 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-08 10:22:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Could a $14.74 item undo the $100 – 200 million Shockoe Stadium development “plan” being promoted by Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones?

Yesterday, a conversation about baseball in Richmond caused me to stumble upon an Internet link to a book the Mayor and his pro-stadium business community allies could not possibly have read.

It is entitled “Baseball and Richmond: A History of the Professional Game, 1884-2000.”

It has received zero reviews since being published roughly a dozen years ago.

My inadvertently discovered link took me to page 159. The lead sentence to the first full paragraph caught my eye: “The new stadium’s name “the Diamond” was selected by the SOC on December 12, 1984.”

What the heck, I mused, is this SOC?

Scrolling up to page 157 answered the question.  What the heck indeed.

It turns out, despite all the criticism heaped on me by the Mayor’s pro-stadium posse and the business community, what I have been writing and proposing for months is basically the process used to build the Diamond!

That’s right, the SOC is shorthand for the Stadium Operating Committee. It was created by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce to ensure a fair, open and transparent bidding process. Another friend of mine, active in the process back then, filled me in on details left out of the book.

Roughly half a dozen firms, all tops in the field, responded to an open bid process. The winner was picked not by and for the Mayor’s cronies, but independent experts on a level playing field.

A unique design and the cost-effective pricing only available through a true competitive bid process won the day. The stadium was built in just seven months and under the original budget.

However, I learned the book did not actually mention the real genius behind the actual construction, Mr. Thomas Hanson.

Who is Mr. Hanson? Architects only produce an idea on paper. The structural engineer is the person who actually turns the concept into reality.

Mr. Hanson created one of the most iconic pre-cast, pre-stressed [I hope I got that right] concrete structures in the country. Turns out the Diamond is an award-winner, built in a way no longer used, thus eventually to be an iconic national landmark — provided it isn’t torn down.

Yesterday, I tracked down Mr. Hanson, now in his 80’s, but as talented and friendly as ever.

We sat in his Richmond office batting around ideas on how to improve the Diamond and the area around it.

It was so kind of him to take the time, and explain how he built the Diamond, really a giant “Lego” project were he used giant cranes to put in place sometimes 100-foot long “Lego blocks” side by side.

I believe upgrading the Diamond may be the most cost-effective, pro-Richmond, future-oriented move we can make.  We can add suites and other amenities like a tarp-like roof to turn it into an all-purpose arena at times.

I am going to give the Richmond media the opportunity to let Mr. Hanson speak for himself, he doesn’t need me as the intermediary.

Richmond City Councilmen Baliles, Samuels, and Hilbert, along with their posse, have a multi-million-dollar plan to build a new baseball stadium on the Boulevard. The Mayor and his posse want to do it in Shockoe Bottom.

They are good at spending other people’s money, but have they ever actually been tangentially involved in a stadium project, much less played a major role in building one?

Back in the 1980’s, the Mayor and business community promised the public a structure to last 100 years. Mr. Hanson kept that promise. Since we paid for it, why not get our money’s worth?

Before we tear it down, is it asking too much for our leaders to talk to the one person in the city who has actually built a baseball stadium, not rely on politicians who can not, as the saying goes, tell their butts from third base?

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.