With an agreement on Tuesday, Virginia Commonwealth and the Richmond Flying Squirrels took the first steps toward a new home ballpark for both teams.
The Flying Squirrels, who for years have tried to either renovate or move from their current home of The Diamond, and VCU announced an agreement to acquire land and construct a new stadium that will serve as both teams’ home. The project is expected to cost between $50 million to $60 million.
The two groups signed a memorandum of understanding on Sept. 28, and the agreement was announced on Tuesday. Once the early first hurdles are crossed, the Flying Squirrels are expected to enter into a lease agreement that would call for them to spend no fewer than 30 years at the new stadium.
The full copy of the MOU can be seen here.
“This is a significant step forward for baseball in the Richmond region,” Richmond mayor Dwight Jones said in a statement. “More importantly, it advances our efforts for economic development along the Boulevard to generate revenue for schools and city services, consistent with our long-standing goals for Richmond.”
No site for the new stadium was announced, but the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the two parties are targeting an area currently occupied the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s warehouse near The Diamond.
Under the terms of the agreement, VCU would be the stadium’s primary owner and the Flying Squirrels would act as the team’s tenant. As such, Richmond would be prohibited from relocating their team during the term of the lease.
“This is an exciting next step toward improving quality of life and driving economic development for the entire region,” VCU president Michael Rao said in the same statement, “while at the same time advancing VCU’s athletic programs.”
Although there are no renderings of the new stadium, the MOU specifies that it will be approximately the same size as BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte and Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa. Those are the respective home parks of two Triple-A clubs, the Charlotte Knights and Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and hold 10,000 fans each.
The agreement also stipulates that the potential new stadium would be equipped to hold other events, such as concerts or festivals, in the offseason.
If this stadium is built, it will finally end a lengthy quest by Richmond’s minor league team to land a new stadium. The club’s Triple-A team eventually left, moving to Gwinnett County in Georgia after attempts to build a stadium fell apart. The Eastern League’s Flying Squirrels arrived in 2009 and immediately announced their hopes to develop a new stadium, a quest that may be coming to an end seven years later.