The leading site for the 7,500-seat ballpark, according to people who have seen the plans, is in Shockoe Bottom, north of Main Street Station and the Farmers’ Market in the block bounded by Grace, Franklin, 17th and 18th streets. But the proposed site, which would require bulldozing several buildings and businesses in the area, already is generating protest from nearby business owners and preservationists.
Aside from location, the biggest obstacle is funding. The proposed ballpark is estimated to cost $58 million, of which about $18.5 million would come from the public sector. The proposal calls for raising $30 million in private dollars.
One City Hall source close to the negotiations says the Braves have indicated a willingness to donate between $7 million and $10 million to jumpstart the cash flow.
Richmond Braves General Manager Bruce Baldwin says the $10 million figure may be a tad ambitious. The Braves are willing to put up a significant amount of money, he says, but probably not that much.
“The number at this point is a nebulous amount,” Baldwin says. “I would think we’re probably talking a couple million plus.”
Regardless, the commitment from the Richmond Braves, the top farm team for the big-league Atlanta Braves, will help the fund-raising considerably. The team can pre-lease luxury boxes, sell the naming rights to the stadium and offer other incentives to generate support from Richmond’s corporate community.
Teams such as the Braves shouldn’t have a problem raising $20 million to $30 million in private money, says Dennis Coates, a sports economist at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, in part because they have a long track record from which to project profits.
Although unfamiliar with the specifics of the Richmond proposal, Coates, who has authored numerous studies on stadium financing, says $30 million isn’t unreasonable. “There are lots of reasons why private investors would do this,” he says. — Scott Bass
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