RVA 5×5: Behind in the Count

by Jon Baliles

Baseball season is in full swing and I have already been to three games to celebrate spring, sport, and sun. And because this is Richmond, I sometimes wonder how much longer I will be able to repeat this ritual in Aprils in the future. This week, the city announced it had reached final terms with developer RVA Diamond Partners to build a new stadium and the massive Diamond District project. But the news was something of a mixed bag for a variety of reasons.

Baseball is all about timing. When the pitcher starts his motion, when the batter cocks and decides whether to swing or not, and whether you can make contact. But after a few days of looking at the deal and reading about it, I realized something about the timing of it is off. This post is not a deep dive into the financials of the deal (that will come soon but not today).

The “deal” was introduced in ordinance form at City Council on Monday. According to reports, the Organizational Development Committee will discuss it at its meeting Monday night and the Council could vote on it at its meeting on May 8 (the same night Council members are supposed to vote on the budget).

This will supposedly allow the project to move forward getting designs finalized, financing lined up, leases signed, establishing the Community Development Authority (CDA), etc. But it seems more like confusing movement with progress.

And let’s remember who is involved here and their respective roles. The Squirrels are great and I/we love them; they are a great community partner. The developers are local with an excellent reputation and track record; Major League Baseball is, well, a little thuggish these days since it took over all levels of the sport but we can live with it (I guess); and then there is the city. Leadership starts at the top and the buck stops there unless you work on the second floor of City Hall.

But looking at the agreement — and this is just an initial cursory analysis, more is forthcoming — this deal has changed tremendously (beyond the skyrocketing interest rates). It is more convoluted and cumbersome than possibly any deal in minor league baseball history. Seven months after selecting RVA Diamond Partners, the deal today seems more complicated and convoluted than what was announced seven months ago. The Diamond District was first announced by the city as a developer-driven project that would develop a huge area of the city with mixed-use development and a stadium to boot. But now it seems structured with the city more in the lead (always a warning sign) and the developer more as a conduit.

Jon Baliles is a former Richmond City Councilman. This is an excerpt from the original article posted on his blog, RVA 5×5. It is posted here with permission.