A recent history of The Diamond

Several years ago, people hemmed and hawed over a proposed baseball stadium in Shockoe, and that plan went away. Now the city is again considering bringing a stadium to Shockoe Bottom.

For over 25 years, the Diamond has been the home of Richmond baseball. Just off I-64, millions of fans have poured into the stadium to watch the Braves and the Flying Squirrels battle their opponents. While the stadium is replete with memories of comebacks and mesmerizing home runs, its enduring spirit remains its largest weakness. One of the oldest stadiums in Minor League Baseball still in use, many have called for it to be demolished to make way for something new. Below is a timeline of one of Richmond’s most appreciated landmarks as it approaches the end of its life.

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Update #3 — November 11, 2013; 9:25 AM

Mayor Dwight Jones is expected to announce his plan to refurbish Shockoe on the back of a new baseball stadium later this morning. In addition to plans for a new stadium, the Mayor is expected to call for updated infrastructure, new businesses, and additional housing in Shockoe. A Loving RVA website recently launched, suggesting the Mayor’s plan fits into a broader initiative for the city and its downtown.

Updates from the Mayor’s press conference can be found here.


Update #2 — July 31, 2012

Shockoe Bottom has again been named as a possible location for a new baseball stadium that would replace the 25-year-old Diamond. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, both the Flying Squirrels and the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce have confirmed that they are considering Shockoe for a new ballpark.

A recent plan called for the Diamond to be razed and a new stadium built on or near the same location. It appeared that a four-way partnership had been forged between the Flying Squirrels, city of Richmond, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County to pay for a proposed $60 million stadium. However, both the counties have expressed reservations in funding the project.

Kim Scheeler, president of the Greater Richmond Chamber, said that the development approach would be done “as a way to raise the money to pay for the stadium rather than have the counties put money into it.” Neither officials with the city or the Flying Squirrels have commented on how a Shockoe stadium would be funded.

However, Lou DiBella, president and managing general partner of the Flying Squirrels, said discussions between the ball club and the city are “fruitful, and moving forward, and I believe there will be some kind of timetable established relatively soon.”

— ∮∮∮ —

Update #1 — March 26, 2012

In February, the Flying Squirrels announced Ballpark Nutz, a citizen advocacy group aimed to garner support for a new stadium. Organized by the club to “encourage regional action on a plan to fun and build a regional ballpark on the Boulevard,” it was largely viewed as public motivation to get the city and region to act.

Speaking on behalf of the organization, Brian Callaghan, founder and co-CEO of Richmond-based Apex Systems and minority shareholder in the Squirrels, said:

We recognize that the localities are facing difficult choices when it comes to budget priorities, and we believe that, if we work together, we can find a responsible solution that will have a new ballpark in place by the 2015 season.

In March, Mayor Jones proposed a 2012-13 budget for the city that allocated funds to help contribute to replacing the Diamond.

Later that month, the Flying Squirrels released conceptual renderings of what a new stadium might look like. Created by Populous, an international design firm that specializes in sports architecture, the hypothetical ballpark would feature: 6,500 seats, a grass berm for outfield seating, and a children’s play area that would accommodate roughly 9,000 people in total.

— ∮∮∮ —


The Squirrels’ second season proved to be even more successful than the previous year:

The Flying Squirrels concluded the regular season with an average home attendance of 6,679, second in the Double-A Eastern League to Reading (6,720). Richmond showed a per-game improvement from the club’s inaugural season (6,626), and had six sellouts of 9,560 at The Diamond.

Despite riding high in both Richmond and the standings, The Squirrels announced in September that they would not invest more money into the stadium. Speaking on the matter, Lou DiBella, the Squirrels’ president said: “I can’t justify to my ownership more of a significant investment. There is a degree to which money you sink into that facility is sort of wasted money.”

Later in October, an article in the Times-Dispatch reported that the Flying Squirels’ were frustrated with the city for lacking specific plans to build a new stadium to replace the Diamond.

DiBella said his ownership group was led to believe by Richmond-area officials that “there would be a new stadium by 2013, and it’s nowhere in sight at the moment.”

Lou DiBella also added this:

“We are not actively looking to other locations at this time, but we have always maintained that our long term success is dependent upon a new facility that our terrific Front Office Staff can maximize for the benefit of the entire metro region. We believe that the RMA and its stakeholders share this same desire and that we will collectively work towards accomplishing this common goal sooner rather than later.”

Mayor Dwight C. Jones quickly affirmed to the public that he did not want to see the Squirrels leave Richmond. He also said that in order for Richmond to build a new stadium, it would require a “financial commitment from regional partners.”

— ∮∮∮ —


The Flying Squirrels invested $2 million to upgrade and retrofit the Diamond before the first pitch of the 2010 season.

The inaugural season for the Flying Squirrels proved to be very successful, with attendance numbers at the top of the league. In part because of this success, The Flying Squirrels were contacted by the Washington Nationals who were interested in moving their AA team to the area after the Squirrels’ lease with the city of Richmond expired. The lack of firm plans for a new stadium ultimately dissuaded the Nationals organization, who has a major league squad 100 miles from Richmond.

— ∮∮∮ —


The Atlanta Braves move their AAA minor league team, the Richmond Braves, from the Richmond to a suburb of Georgia after over 20 years of calling Richmond home. The R-Braves had a ongoing, tenuous relationship with the city. At the heart of the matter was the Braves’ desire for Richmond to build a new, approximately $60 million stadium to replace the Diamond. The Diamond was built in 1984 at a cost of a reported $8 million.

In September, Richmond signed a lease with the San Francisco Giants’ AA franchise for the Diamond through the 2011 season, with an option to remain through 2012.

Chuck Domino, chief executive manager of the Flying Squirrels, and who has been in baseball for over 30 years, said this when he first toured the Diamond: “This stadium was built upside down.”

photo by rvaphotodude

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Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Jon Tobin on said:

    We really do need to build a new stadium. The Diamond was nice when it was built, but it’s really showing its age. I don’t know why the old Reynolds Wrap site isn’t being pounced on. It would be perfect to build a stadium that is a mix between PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Camden Yards. Brick and steel (an homage to RVA’s rich history with railroads while keeping a style similar to Shockoe Bottom), with center field being completely open (no seating) to allow an incredible view of the downtown skyline and James River. Fireworks shows would be incredible. It would bring more people to the Manchester area. There could be a shuttle service to take people from downtown areas hotels to the ballpark. Maybe even have a river walk built on the south side of the river. More businesses would be inclined to set up shop over there. I just can’t see it being bad for Richmond in any way. The area where the Diamond is can be picked up by VCU, Sports Backers, or the Arthur Ashe Center to expand athletics programs for city residents. It’s win-win-win-win-win.

  2. Anonymous on said:

    I am not in disagreement, Jon, but I also think Mayor Jones has a good point- it needs to be a regional effort- City residents can’t pay all the costs. Why don’t we hear from county surpervisors?

  3. Alix B. on said:

    It seems you also left out: “A Diamond in the rough might lose Squirrels for a shinier stadium”, that went live on Tuesday.

    Great to show the chronology. Awesome.

  4. As usual the counties are the problem. People in the counties go to games they need to stop being so selfish. They just want to keep sponging off tbe city.

  5. Justin on said:

    Also relevant: in 2004, the Braves made it to the International League Championship Series, but none of those games could be played in The Diamond because of sinkholes in the outfield.

    This would have hurt local businesses near the Diamond who get revenue from game night, except there weren’t any local businesses near the Diamond that get revenue from game night. Maybe Buz and Ned’s? Richard’s Rendezvous?

  6. Matt on said:

    The lack of cooperation from the counties is rather frustrating to read about. We all understand that money is tight everywhere but it is the language used by county supervisors in recent articles that is particularly disappointing and not condusive to collaboration. The Counties vs. City rivalry, if you will, is really tiring; second only to the endless pondering and inaction at Richmond City Hall.

    Should the City build a stadium downtown? Absolutely! Many cities across the country can attest to the value of doing so. Track record would indicate that the City will instead succumb to laziness & inaction and allow conquerable hurdles and obstacles to act as an excuse to do absolutely nothing……again. Hopefully that won’t be the case; even City Hall must be tired of NOT pulling the trigger.

    Given the City Hall’s inability to pull the trigger on anything without endle

  7. Roger Talbott on said:

    As a fiscally conservative member of the tea farty, I oppose such a waste of spending! Why can’t the city spend its money wisely and frugally like me by buying a new mattress in which to store my money.

  8. Roger Talbott on said:


  9. Scott on said:

    Time to dust off this again (from a few years ago):


    The Sierra Club Falls of the James Group opposes the Shockoe Center baseball stadium proposal based on principles of conservation and smart growth. We preface our statement by saying we are not opposed to baseball or urban redevelopment. Rather, we wish to join the Richmond baseball discussion by imparting some basic environmental tenets that need to be recognized.

    First, let us agree that Richmond deserves a world class sports stadium within its urban footprint. However, if we examine what cities all over the world are doing with new facilities, we can see that they are incorporating conservation measures and ‘green’ technology. The Boston Red Sox outfitted Fenway Park with solar water heating. In Kent, England, the local soccer team has put in green roofs and green rainwater retention in addition to solar for its clubhouse. The San Francisco Giants are installing PV solar to power nearby homes and bringing in more recycling and biodegradable materials. Bern, Switzerland’s soccer team features the world’s largest stadium-integrated photovoltaic solar system. We all saw the lengths that China went to make its Olympic venues environmentally aware. In short, why not Richmond? The current proposal suggests that a baseball field in itself will function as better storm-water retention area than what the current site offers. While this might, possibly, remotely, be true (with the City spending lots of money on infrastructure), we demand more green features from this and future development proposals in all parts of the City.

    While some view the proposed Shockoe location as beneficial for the City, many citizens and environmentalists question the concept of plunking a massive structure in the middle of several sensitive, historic neighborhoods, a growing transportation center, and the topography of the Shockoe Valley, creek, and floodplain. When we compare the proposed site to the existing Boulevard one, there is clearly a sense of purpose that conflicts with smart growth principles. Of course, there is the immediate problem of building the stadium in a floodplain with millions of taxpayer dollars required to improve drainage and retention. Displacing the water with a giant complex does not adequately solve the natural flooding. The intermodal transportation center that has long been a part of the Shockoe Bottom revitalization plan should not be hindered or complicated by accommodating a baseball stadium. Both the Boulevard and Shockoe site demand more pedestrian-oriented development, but the Shockoe site’s historic and natural features would be negatively impacted by a large stadium structure. We need to ‘Restore the Core,’ not bury it under more concrete.

    In contrast, the Boulevard can still benefit greatly from baseball. As mass transit advocates, the Sierra Club believes a stadium-anchored Boulevard City center could be a popular stop for the City’s new bus rapid transit as well as fans commuting from the counties as they have done for generations. For these reasons, the Sierra Club strongly questions Shockoe Bottom as a location for the ball park.

    Finally, the strongest environmental argument against the Shockoe proposal is that it spurns the re-usability of the existing Boulevard ballpark. Adaptive re-use is the most ‘green’ option there is. Concrete accounts for more than 5 percent of human-caused carbon-dioxide emissions annually, mostly because cement, the active ingredient in concrete, is made by baking limestone and clay powders under intense heat that is generally produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Making finished concrete products—by mixing cement with water, sand, and gravel—creates additional emissions because heat and steam are often used to accelerate the curing process. Destroying the Boulevard Diamond ballpark and building a whole new one in Shockoe Bottom will greatly increase the City of Richmond’s carbon footprint. Mayor Wilder, along with over 250 mayors from all over the United States, signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which seeks to reduce global warming. Certainly, polishing the existing Diamond, refurbishing it with more modern and green features is less wasteful, less detrimental when compared to creating a whole new stadium in a new location.

    There are other arguments against the Shockoe stadium proposal (financial uncertainty, regionalism, open government are just a few of the issues). Many of them are being aired and heard in the local media. The Sierra Club calls for equal consideration of environmental concerns. We are confident that the public will not only recognize the true costs of this proposal if given the chance, but also join us in opposition.

  10. Chris on said:

    Try a different argument. Nobody cares about carbon footprints.

  11. Mayor Jones promised to change the face of Richmond. This is his chance to do it. He’s got nothing to lose, not even an election.

  12. Roger Talbott on said:

    In all seriousness, what isn’t clear is why the sierra club has a horse in this race at all. Both sites are already developed with existing infrastructure. Their calls for green building elements is a valid one, but its hardly a criticism that’s exclusive to a Shockoe location. Their calls to refurbish the existing concrete structure more than likely wouldn’t qualify as a “new diamond” and therefore wouldn’t satisfy the proposed improvements over the old diamond. It also demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of the facts of refurbishing the diamond. You cant gut a building and make better use of the basic structure if the basic is the problem in the first place. If the build a new diamond near the existing diamond as has also been suggested that still doesn’t satisfy their carbon footprint concerns. Come on Sierra Club, use your heads!!

  13. Ben on said:

    Chris, you are being shortsighted and inaccurate.

    On the financial side what would be the value of adding on the cost of securing 4 or 5 acres of land, demolishing,and leveling when we can’t even come up with the money for the current site. So much infill is occurring already in the shock area I can’t imagine what the benefit of eating up so much real estate with a stadium would be.
    Then there is the issue of the residents living there now. They hate the night life. Do you think they would be happy with the stadium being built there?

    Also there needs to be more intrinsic value to be built into this stadium for it to make sense. What is the regional response for a disaster? could the stadium be fitted to serve as a shelter or medical center in the case of disaster? is that not worth money from the counties?

  14. anonymous on said:

    Look at the property owners who are pushing this for their properties. Some of them are the same people who previously sued the City for ‘allowing the Bottom to flood their properties’.

    Same old corrupt Richmond development community re-hashing an old scam called the ‘Stadium shuffle’, while schools and mass transit continue to fall apart.

    Wake up and revolt!

  15. Well Scott, maybe we can throw in a rapid transit system. Would that satisfy you?

  16. CSB on said:

    “tea farty” was the best typo ever. I’m gonna start using that one.

  17. It seems like a shame to pull a bright spot of Scott’s Addition out. Would it not be feasible to work to revitalize that area, perhaps buying out the Greyhound and UHaul areas, and putting in attractions that would mesh well with the baseball crowd (small water park + stores, as an example I’m throwing out there) which would bring in additional money? It makes more sense to me to work at fixing up blighted parts of the city rather than removing the potential good. We could update the stadium, fix up the areas across the street, and draw more crowds that way, while making the area a more desirable place for additional businesses to move.

    Realistically, after the novelty of a new stadium wore off, would crowd numbers really be enough to justify the spending? If they build it they may come…for a time. Until it’s less shiny. And then it’ll just be the same baseball crowd, same baseball *game*, but the city will have emptier pockets. I’d much rather see the current stadium polished up with the surrounding area to make more long-lasting change.

  18. Zeke on said:

    I agree that moving the stadium downtown means we miss the opportunity to improve the area around the Diamond. Regardless of whether it’s the Diamond or a new stadium, there is a big opportunity to make a baseball stadium on Boulevard the center of a more vibrant district.

    Currently, at every game you can see hundreds of people drive up before first pitch, park their cars, and…mill around outside. Or possibly go to Buz and Ned’s. What if you had more restaurants to choose from in the 3-block radius? What if there was a nice public park to picnic in before the game? Surely, this is a chance to move foot traffic around to some other, new, neat attractions in Scott’s Addition.

    This is a major interstate exit into our city. Why should it showcase Greyhound and Idealease?

  19. Crowd numbers have held up from a peak of around 700,000 in the old Diamond configuration. Currently the Squirrels are leading the Eastern League in attendance. In 40 years the Diamond has brought nothing to Scott’s Addition. Shockoe Bottom is full of walkable destinations, the Canal Walk, the James River, museums and restaurants. It is ready made for visitors. What a great opportunity to show off this part of town and give the Boulevard a chnce to find a more successful model. It is perfectly situated to become the major retail center the city is missing.

  20. Stuart on said:

    People who think sports fields belong in the urban core are mistaken. That is a land-intensive low order use that has always existed on the urban periphery for a reason. Just because we have mutilated the city with other dumb things like superblocks, surface parking lots, one way streets etc doesn’t mean we should keep turning central place theory on its head with ever more of these anti-urban land uses. To say nothing of the “public-private partnership” that will funnel public coin into private purse to the tune of $50-$80 mil.

  21. Zeke on said:

    Paul, I understand your comment about retail on the Boulevard. And I can’t argue with that trend. But what Stuart says rings true to me: The Meadowlands is in a marsh in New Jersey. Philadelphia’s major league sports complex is a sea of asphalt at the end of South Philly. DC has taken ten years to realize any kind of development around Nationals Park – and look at how much larger a baseball market, and how much denser a city, that is.

    My priorities around Shockoe are probably crime, flooding, and protecting historic structures. Baseball downtown is not so important to me.

  22. Zeke, I think all those things can be addressed by a new ballpark. There’s safety in numbers and nothing like 500,000 of your closest friends to feel safe with. There’s plenty of examples of successful ballparks. Shockoe Bottom is not in a marshland or a sea of asphalt (like the Diamond) . It’s smack dab in the center of the city, exactly where a stadium should be.

    Here’s a few links.


    Spotlight: Oriole Park At Camden Yards

    (Facebook) I Support Baseball in Downtown Richmond

  23. Willis on said:

    Stuart is right…just look what happened to Gwinnett County when the Braves moved there. Why should taxpayers be funneling 50-80 million dollars to private corporations? Limited resources and we need to set priorities here in the city. I’d love nicer baseball digs but for realsie, we got more important issues to tackle.

  24. Paul — “There’s safety in numbers and nothing like 500,000 of your closest friends to feel safe with.” Maybe. Or maybe other crimes like pickpocketing and general theft (from cars, etc) would increase with the number of people. Having more (probably drunk) people around after a game doesn’t feel like a great improvement to a bar/drinking-heavy area, to be honest.

  25. Well, you can find a down side to everything, but I’ll be happy to have the company.

  26. Jacob K on said:

    If indeed the financial payoff is there then I believe this is in the long term interest of the city. I agree that with the Scott’s Addition location you’d have to build out a lot more “interesting” things to do to make it a baseball centered “district”. It’s as another poster here put it, the Diamond had 40 years to change that corridor, what did it do?

    This looks like a pretty responsible plan on the surface level at least though I think having an independent party look at it could help. If indeed it generates the tax dollars it should, then that profit for the city can be reallocated into schools. Having something like this along the broad street corridor additionally ads to the feeling of a cohesive downtown, and perhaps could lead to streetcars going down broad again one day? I say for now, that the time for major debate is passing. Some people just can’t be happy.

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