By Landon Moore, Staff Writer
The Atlanta Braves farm team, the Richmond Braves called the Diamond home from 1966 until 2008 when they left due to deteriorating conditions of their stadium. In 2010 baseball came back to Richmond when the San Francisco Giants farm team agreed to come from Connecticut down south. According to Milb.com, the Giants organization had a contest for the people of metro Richmond to name their new team and the popular consensus was the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
They were promised in the contract that they would be given a state of the art baseball stadium but six years later no changes have been made, but lots of controversy has be stirred up. The inability of surrounding localities to come to some kind of an agreement on how to fund and where to put a new stadium in the metro area has left the franchise in limbo.
Throughout this process, the Squirrels have risen above and become one of the country’s most popular minor league teams in apparel and home game attendance. This brings the city approximately 40 million dollars in annual revenue and should bring a sense of pride to the community.
So with one of the most popular minor league teams in the nation, why can’t a medium sized metropolitan area save the only major league franchise the area has? Many locations have been touted as possible locations for the new stadium including Shockoe Bottom and the area around Richmond Raceway, or keep it at The Diamond.
A successful minor league stadium should have easy access, good parking, and reasonably priced tickets. The first two options would have a major financial investment, limited access from highways, and inevitably higher ticket prices to cover the construction costs according to Richmond.com.
Keeping the ballpark where it is with renovations and better amenities, The Diamond could be as good as any new stadium. The organization would maintain excellent traffic access, less investment on the participating localities which would maintain affordable ticket prices for the community, and the refurbished stadium would further the resurgence of the downtown area without the occurrence of another strip mall eyesore.
Freshman baseball player Trae Zegarra thinks this could be Richmond’s last chance.
“The city will never have another team if we lose the Flying Squirrels because the population and general look of the city are not up to par,” Zegarra said.
Many believe that a brand new stadium would give the city life and give the squirrels what they asked for when arriving but a new stadium would cost upwards of 100 million dollars, which may be financially irresponsible for a cash strapped community.
”In the city’s point of view, it would be easier to have the team relocated,” Zegarra said.
If the city can spend millions to bring a professional football team for a three week football camp or millions more for a one time bike race why can’t they invest in improving an existing facility for a pro franchise that will be here as long the Braves were? This may be our last chance to maintain a pro sports team in our vibrant beloved city.