click to enlarge Pat O'Conner, president of Minor League Baseball, left, talks shop during the organization's Annual Hot Stove Banquet this week.

Leah Small

Pat O'Conner, president of Minor League Baseball, left, talks shop during the organization's Annual Hot Stove Banquet this week.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Flying Squirrels Could Say Bye-Bye to Richmond

League president says team may leave if deal for new stadium isn't made.

Posted By on Sat, Jan 23, 2016 at 9:45 PM

With the city beginning its first steps toward developing the Boulevard, it remains unclear whether the Squirrels will keep their nest on the corridor.

But even if the team stays, it would have to be in a new stadium, says Pat O’Conner, president and chief executive of Minor League Baseball.

O’Conner says he wants to send the message that the Squirrels could leave Richmond -- as the Braves did in 2008 -- if demands for a new facility aren’t met.

The team also is up against a ticking clock on a lease at The Diamond, which ends in 2017.

“Stop the rhetoric, stop the finger-pointing and come up with a plan to build a new ballpark,” O’Conner said at the Squirrels' annual Hot Stove Banquet, held at the Siegel Center on Thursday. “They lost baseball once already.”

The Braves also pleaded for a new stadium to replace The Diamond, built in 1985. The Squirrels have reiterated the demand since coming to Richmond in 2010.

The city is holding a series of public meetings to determine the best use for 60 acres of city-owned real estate, on which The Diamond sits. After public feedback and a study, the city plans to solicit developer proposals.

The first two of six meetings drew mostly Squirrels fans and the team sent out emails asking them to come out to show support.

O’Conner said that countless maintenance issues, such as flooding and crumbling concrete, continue to plague The Diamond.

“We need a new ballpark. The Diamond has done her time, she’s served her purpose,” he said. “Physical assets don’t last forever.”

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