A road trip for Richmond city leaders
Wednesday could help make a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom a reality. They
traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to talk with officials there about how
they were able to revitalize their minor league ballpark, and thus their entire
You may have heard of the Durham Bulls. The
team was made famous by the Hollywood blockbuster Bull Durham. Richmond
officials didn't travel all the way to North Carolina just to see the ballpark,
but the economic revitalization that goes along with it. The complex is about
Downtown Durham is a city of similar size to
Richmond. Even some of the buildings might look familiar. But twenty years ago,
the area looked much like the undeveloped parking lots and blocks of the
current Shockoe Bottom. Wednesday, Richmond leaders learned Durham didn't come
by this progress easily.
"Everything that has happened in terms of the
revitalization of Downtown Durham is really started with this ballpark," Mayor
Bill Bell said.
Mayor Dwight Jones hopes Richmond officials,
including city council members and community business leaders, can apply the
lessons they learn on this trip to his economic development proposal for The
"We're kind of doing a similar thing," Jones
told us. "There's no need in recreating the wheel. These people have done it.
They've been there and they've done that."
The meeting was a virtual who's who of Durham
city, business and sports leadership. Anyone who would know anything about how
Durham made its project a reality was there to be questioned.
And there were questions and concerns about
funding, logistics, city resources and historical preservation.
"In the research that I've done, I've also
found that there are a lot of lessons that we could learn to avoid as we move
our process forward," Councilman Jon Baliles, who made the trip, said.
Baliles, who says he hasn't made up his mind
on Revitalize RVA, questions finances. He is concerned about both possibilities
of low estimates on what funding is needed now, and if the city will be
responsible for paying for improvements in the future, like Durham is right
Despite the questions, many of the people
here considered this a fact finding mission for what the $56.2 million proposal
"I don't call it a template," John Stallings
of SunTrust Bank, who was a key planner in the trip, added. "I certainly think
there is a great reference point."
isn't the first trip to see ballpark-centered economic revitalization. Last
year, city leaders traveled to Denver to see its stadium.
Before any decision will be made, many city council
members will hold district-wide meetings. Several we spoke to say they will
make their decisions based on input at those gatherings.
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