A new deal

City pitches special bonds for stadium project

George Copeland Jr. | 4/11/2024, 6 p.m.
The Richmond city government is pushing the idea of using special revenue bonds to finance the new Diamond Stadium and ...

The Richmond city government is pushing the idea of using special revenue bonds to finance the new Diamond Stadium and the first phase of infrastructure work in the Diamond District.

City officials’ recommendation Monday to the City Council is a departure from a Community Development Authority revenue-bond approach to the work.

The new approach is expected to reduce costs by $215 million over 30 years, according to the city administration, and will secure roughly $24 million in revenue by utilizing the state sales tax-incentive program before it expires on July 1.

The recommendation appears to be picking up steam.

Mayor Stoney

Mayor Stoney

“For years now, Richmonders have been clear that they want a state-of-the-art stadium for the Flying Squirrels and a vibrant new neighborhood for all Richmonders to enjoy,”

Mayor Levar M. Stoney said in a statement. “This new financial approach will do just that.

“I am grateful and proud of the city administration, City Council and the development team that devoted so much time to this important project,” he added.

Local and national baseball officials also celebrated the updated proposal.

“Today’s announcement by the city represents an important step toward ensuring that the Squirrels will have a new home in Richmond,” Richmond Flying Squirrels president Lou DiBella said. “April 2026 is just around the corner, so it is imperative that all stakeholders move forward collectively and with a sense of urgency.”

“Richmond has been a great market for minor league baseball, and we’re excited to see that the city is making progress on putting in place a plan to keep baseball in Richmond for years to come,” said Morgan Sword, executive vice president of baseball

operations for Minor League Baseball. “We think today’s developments are an important step forward to ensuring that the new stadium will be ready in time for the 2026 season.”

While parts of the proposal have changed as a result of this new revenue-bond approach, several other aspects remain the same, including requirements for the involvement of minority businesses, union labor representation for the stadium, infrastructure and private developments, and a focus on affordable housing for a portion of the residential units.

City Council members will review and vote on the city administration’s updated proposal in the weeks ahead, with several council members showing support so far.

“Richmonders have been clear about two aspects of the Diamond District project –they want us to ensure the Flying Squirrels, one of the best assets and ambassadors for our city, remain in Richmond and to support the new housing development in the District, including numerous affordable units, said Council President and 4th District Councilwoman, Kristen Nye. “While the latest funding model is different than we originally envisioned, I believe this project, including with the new funding structure, is

in the city’s best interest and is consistent with the feedback we have heard from Richmonders throughout this process.”

Other council members agree.

“This project is significant on many levels,” Ms. Newbille said. “From the new baseball stadium to the historic minority business and labor requirements, to the affordable housing developments and the public park, this inclusive project will create a beautiful neighborhood with something for every Richmonder to enjoy.”

Groundbreaking on the Diamond District project and the issuing of stadium bonds will begin in June, followed by site work in July and stadium construction in the fall. Private area development will start in early 2025. The stadium is expected to be ready for the 2026 baseball season.