Braves Banking on Richmond . . . For Now

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Atlanta Braves executive vice president of business operations Mike Plant this morning expressed his disappointment in the slow pace of securing a new stadium in Richmond and said the organization will only sign a one-year lease to play at the antiquated Diamond when the current one expires at the end of this season.

Earlier this summer, Plant was enthusiastic over a seemingly impending deal—one that he figured would be announced by the end of the summer. But the failure to secure a developer and Richmond’s inability to settle on a location in the entertainment district near the team’s current location has frustrated the organization.

“We’ve had a number of discussions and the focus is still on, with the mayor leading the charge with the business community,” Plant said. “We’re still looking at an entertainment district location in and around where we play now . . . I’m a little disappointed with the timing, that we started this process last November and that it has taken a little longer than we thought.”

Plant remains confident that a deal will get done to keep the R-Braves in Richmond—he said they will work out a one-year contract extension for 2008. But any long-term commitment hinges on a new stadium and Plant would like to see some movement on that front in the coming months.

“There is going to have to be some action that I have to see in the next couple of months, that is action consistent with the discussions we’ve had with the city leadership,” said Plant, adding that the ballpark would be publicly financed with the Braves making annual contributions. “It hasn’t been a contentious issue. We all are in agreement and there is some understanding that a new ballpark has been our desire and the ldeaderhsip understands that a renovation is more expensive than tearing the existing one down a building a new one.”

Plant said the team does have a back-up plan if a new stadium deal falls through but would not elaborate. “We’re not just sitting around and waiting,” he said.

However where the team could re-locate to that would provide a better market than Richmond remains a bit of a mystery—there appear to be few, if any, ready-make Triple-A markets.

In other news . . .

• The Charleston Fire Department hats worn by the RiverDogs in a game after an accident that killed nine firefighters are now on sale at the team’s ballpark with all proceeds going to the Charleston’s Firemen Fund.

The navy blue caps have “CFD” on the front, “Charleston 9” on the back in smaller letters and “June 18, 2007” on the side.

• The Omaha Royals will hold a silent auction on Aug. 17 to benefit the family of Tulsa coach Mike Coolbaugh, who was killed during a game when he was struck in the head by a line drive.

• Folks in Battle Creek wonder what could have been as new ballpark in Midland draws a crowd.