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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Michael Paul Williams on Baseball Downtown

Build it, and will they come?:(Excerpt)
Everyone but Richmond seems to know downtown is the place to go. Frankly, it's easy to envision a ballpark in the Bottom if you could build one that wouldn't flood. Don't tell me that the suburbanites won't come to Shockoe Bottom. Part of the attachment to The Diamond, I'd argue, is at least partially rooted in an irrational fear of downtown. But I suspect that for hardcore baseball fans, the love of the sport would eventually outweigh those fears. As they said in 'Field of Dreams,' build it and they will come.

The Shockoe stadium would be as convenient to interstate access as The Diamond. Parking is a genuine concern, but nothing a conventional solution such as a parking deck or a more creative approach, such as ballpark shuttles from the'burbs, wouldn't solve.

Not that everyone would be driving or taking a bus to the games. A downtown stadium would produce the rarest of rarities at a Richmond sporting event: walk-up customers. Naysayers have predicted that a Shockoe Bottom ballpark would be the next white elephant (Scott?) to grace the Richmond landscape, joining such structures as the late and unlamented 6th Street Marketplace. But the marketplace was an act of faith pursued in the face of declining downtown retail trends. This ballpark would join a wave of urban investment in such structures.

The most disturbing aspect of this plan for me is its potential to wreak havoc on the sensitive slave-trade history of Shockoe Bottom. Shockoe Center development should be conditioned on preserving and presenting this history. This project may be the best opportunity to do so. We've wasted an awful lot of time dreaming about a ball field


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Unknown said...

I hear the naysayers keep calling this a "boondoggle". I'm so sick of that word.

Paul Hammond said...

They like to hear themselves talk.

Me, I'm looking forward to sitting in left field watching the sun set behind downtown.

Did you hear Nolan Ryan was in town?

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