According to EL president Joe McEacharn:
"The playing field and conditions for player development, despite everything [owners and operators] have done, have deteriorated to the point where you're really just starting to patch, patch, patch," McEacharn said. "We can't keep putting a million-and-a-half dollars into this stadium every couple of years. It doesn't make sense, and it won't happen."
That's no surprise. Everyone knows the Diamond is a dump, and a little spit and polish will only go so far. But here's a little nugget from McEacharn that should get your attention:
"The [Eastern League] and the franchise made a commitment to Richmond that we'd come here and we'd prove ourselves," McEacharn said. "We made that commitment with the expectation, with the understanding, that a new facility would get done. We feel like we're holding up our end of the bargain. The Richmond community is certainly holding up their end of the bargain [by supporting the club]."
Translation: Time to pony up Richmond. Clearly the EL and the Squirrels are posturing for a big contribution from the City for a new ballpark.
The article talks about the need to study whether a new ballpark constitutes the best use of the Boulevard. Here's a news flash: that study has already been done, and the answer was a resounding 'no'. (See the Krupi report.) The best and highest use of the Boulevard is NOT baseball. This is undeniable. For 25 years the Diamond has failed to bring about significant growth on the Boulevard. Did anyone notice that the Boulevard started to improve once the Braves announced they were leaving? Hmmm. The best use of that land is mixed use, commercial, so that residents no longer have to travel to the suburbs to hit up some of the bigger stores.
So now that the Flying Squirrels and Eastern League are making noise about a new ballpark, it will be interesting to hear how the opponents of a Shockoe ballpark justify a new park on the Boulevard. Remember all those tough questions they asked about the Shockoe Center proposal: Who will pay for it? How will it be paid for? Have all of the economic impact studies been done? I'm sure they will demand answers to these same tough questions with regard to a Boulevard proposal, right? And I'm sure Style Weakly and the Times Disgrace will be give a Boulevard ballpark boondoggle the same treatment they gave the Shockoe Center proposal. (Note: that's sarcasm again, people.)
In reality, I think the Boulevard ballpark debate will reveal the true interests of many who opposed the Shockoe Center project. It will be interesting to see how these folks justify their support for a boondoggle on the Boulevard when all evidence shows it makes no financial sense for the City to contribute to a new ballpark there. Let's hope their hypocrisy is at least entertaining.