RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Minor League Baseball officials have made it clear — if the city of Richmond wants to keep the Flying Squirrels at the Diamond, then the team needs a new revamped, redeveloped stadium by 2025.
City officials have expressed a passionate desire to keep the team and are urging a ten-person committee responsible for choosing a developer to lead the 66.7-acre Diamond District development project to make its decision quickly.
The panel responsible for selecting the developer narrowed down the agencies under consideration to three finalists back in May, but haven’t made any progress since then.
Losing the Squirrels wouldn’t just impact sports fans in the city. 8News spoke with local businesses to hear why keeping the team — and the traffic they bring to the boulevard — is crucial to many Richmond-based businesses.
Stephen Deraffele, the owner of Pinky’s in Scott’s Addition, said his business has been open for around a year now and thrives during baseball season. Deraffele told 8News the patio outside the Mediterranean restaurant has become a hotspot for people to watch the fireworks that go up near the end of a Flying Squirrels game — a tradition he would hate to see go.
“We got lucky with the location,” Deraffele said. “It kind of caps the night.”
Like many Richmond residents, Deraffele noted that the Squirrels have become a community staple, and the customers they bring to local businesses is a major perk.
“We do see a lot of traffic from the neighborhood from the baseball games,” Deraffele said. “It would definitely be a hit for us.”
Keeping the team in Richmond at the Diamond is still possible as long as the new stadium is finalized in time and meets requirements outlined by Major League Baseball. These instructions include guidelines on lighting fixture luminosity, spatial mandates and more.
Once the evaluation committee, which is comprised of council members, city economic leaders and even local college representatives, makes its selection, Richmond City Council would still need to approve the design.