Whether the city should help finance the proposed ballpark development in Shockoe Bottom dominated the discussion last week, but the bigger question might be: Who's buying the team?
Months-long discussion between Bryan Bostic, head of the proposed team ownership group, and Lou DiBella, owner of the Norwich, Conn., Double-A baseball team, the Connecticut Defenders, have been on ice for weeks.
Sources knowledgeable of the situation tell Style Weekly that Bostic and his investors haven't secured the financing to buy the team, expected to cost between $15 million and $17 million. A source at City Hall close to the discussions says Bostic and his investors “aren't even close.”
Pete Boisseau, a spokesman for the Shockoe Bottom ballpark developers, Highwoods Properties, as well as Bostic, declines to discuss the negotiations.
“No one other than Donald Trump comments to the media in middeal negotiations. It doesn't make any sense,” he says. “The presidents of Minor League Baseball and the Eastern League have unequivocally assured the mayor that there will be an Eastern League team playing at The Diamond in 2010.”
Indeed, the presidents contacted the mayor's office May 18, just hours before Jones released a summary of the consultants' report that determined the $60 million ballpark couldn't be financed without city backing.
The message, says a City Hall source: If the Bostic deal falls through, the leagues will bend over backward to help Richmond get a new team.
The phone call represents a significant tipping point in the community debate about if and where a new baseball stadium should be built. In other words, Bostic and Highwoods no longer can claim that the future of baseball in Richmond runs through them.
“All that hostage shit is off the table,” the source says. “Bostic and [his team] aren't in the middle anymore. The balance of power in this deal has shifted for the first time.”