The truths about baseball in Shockoe Bottom

Every once in a while you have to go a little “off-brand” in your blog posts and sprinkle in some of your other passions. 

For a number of years as some of you know, one of those passions has been the quest to see an economic development project including a ballpark built in Shockoe Bottom.  This quest began before my business partner and I purchased a minority stake in a building that would literally stand across the street from the right field line.  Our involvement, once as part of the original RBI group and now for the last three years as Bottom business owners, afford us I think unique perspectives in this way-too-long argument.  It also gave us for a while a seat at the table.  In that seat we were able to see the good, the bad, and the ugly related to this argument.  We have also seen some misrepresentations that I would like to clear up now, as the final stages of this debate come to a head.  Here are some of those truths:

  • The Braves NEVER agreed to the rennovation of The Diamond.  In fact, they rejected it and never signed any document.
  • The former mayor of Richmond did just about everything in his power to delay any agreement for a new ballpark and admitted as much after he left office.
  • The original RBI group did not drive the Braves away, there is enough blame to go around to many others.
  • The original RBI group did not stand to benefit financially from the original plans.
  • No one is more passionate and more committed to bringing baseball back to Richmond and building the home for a team in the right place than Bryan Bostic (add to this Tim Davey).
  • No one, including the media, has ever truly understood that this has always been about economic development first and ballpark second.
  • The arguments about traffic, safety, history, etc. have been led by a small group of people who have other and in some cases their own interests at heart.  Most of them don’t live or work in the Bottom.
  • Aside from the redevelopment of buildings around the core of the Bottom, the core has remained as it was seven years ago.  Any argument that other development is eminent is ridiculous and unfounded.
  • If someone had a plan to build a new ballpark on the Boulevard and a way to pay for it, wouldn’t you think they would have stepped up by now.
  • If someone had a plan to build a major economic development project on the Boulevard that included a ballpark wouldn’t if you they would have stepped up by now.
  • If the city was willing to spend six million dollars to renovate the Diamond five years ago, it should be able to spend eight million for the infrastructure improvements for a four-hundred million dollar economic development project designed to bring in a great deal of tax revenue.
  • The city and its leaders continue to live in the past and fear failure instead of embracing risk.
  • This proposal is the city’s LAST great hope to build economic development engines in both Shockoe Bottom and the Boulevard.
  • This proposal will use the latest engineering techniques to eliminate most of the future fears of flooding in the Bottom.
  • If downtown events like the Folk Festival and Riverrock can bring people downtown, then a ballpark and its additional concert and festival programming can as well.
  • Those who support baseball in the Bottom have no one to blame but themselves if the proposal failed.  They have failed to come out and support the proposal at countless public meetings.
  • and finally, this is the only place in the Richmond city limits where this can work or that developers want to invest in.  If the city passes, my prediction is that one of the county’s will finally step up and once again Richmond will be asking why didn’t we do that.

There are many issues I have not addressed but will be happy to answer if you want to share your comments.  It is time to do this.  I am tired of seven years of the same arguments.  Now or never.

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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