The Bulletin

VCU can buy state land eyed for Richmond ballpark, but only after lawmakers see their site plan

By: - February 26, 2019 5:02 am

Virginia Commonwealth University will get the the first shot to buy state-owned land it and the city of Richmond have been eyeing for a new ballpark, but they’ll have to show lawmakers a plan first.

The site in north Richmond is currently a warehouse for the Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority and is across from The Diamond, home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. VCU and the Squirrels have discussed the possibility of a $55 million joint ballpark since at least 2016.

The new shared ballpark discussion was urged along by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and then-Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney, who is now the mayor of Richmond. Their efforts were stymied by the General Assembly’s pushback on ABC’s relocation, which has to happen before the site is sold.

Gov. Ralph Northam wrote the idea to sell the land to the university into his budget proposal this year. It passed over the weekend in the General Assembly’s amended budget with a pre-sale requirement of lawmaker approval.

“Prior to any sale of the property to VCU, the university shall prepare a master plan for the development of the property for submission to the chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees,” the budget language now reads.

The General Assembly also included language laying out what it wanted to see at the site.

“The master plan may include development of the property as the VCU Athletics Village and shall include academic space in support of academic or clinical programs that align with the overall intended uses of the Athletics Village to include but not be limited to: sports medicine, sports leadership, classroom space for future delivery of four-year teaching degree and instructional space for student athletes.”

Northam’s proposal didn’t contain a requirement for lawmaker approval. It only laid out how to determine the price for the land (the average of two appraisals) and that if VCU and the state couldn’t come to an agreement, it could be offered to another buyer and VCU could counter-offer.

“Following the governor’s introduction of the original language, VCU worked collaboratively with money committee leadership and staff to arrive at additional language that permits VCU to acquire the property for our future athletics village and use the property for aligned academic uses, potentially with additional state support,” university spokesperson Tom Gresham said in an email.

“This language represents an important next step in the process of providing Division I facilities for our student-athletes that the rest of our campus and our community can enjoy as well.”

From The Bulletin, the Mercury’s blog, where we post quick hits on the news of the day, odds and ends and commentary.


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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.