Mayor’s office responds to Squirrels’ president feeling ‘abandoned’

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) —  “The Diamond is crumbling, our neighbors in the counties say they can’t help replace it. We already have lost one team because of it, but I am here today to say we’re not going to lose another team.”

Those were the words of Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones in 2013. But currently, things are spiraling in a much different direction.

Two years ago, Jones unveiled plans for a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, but those plans eventually struck out. Months ago the city unveiled plans to build a free standing children’s hospital where the Diamond currently stands, but those plans have been put on hold. On Monday, the mayor introduced a resolution to develop the Boulevard, with no mention of the Flying Squirrels.

“I feel sort of abandoned and mislead and those terms are at best,” said Flying Squirrels president Lou Dibella on Newsradio 1140 WRVA Thursday morning reacting to the resolution. “Frankly think this administration should be ashamed of themselves.”

Dibella says the administration has broken promises to the team and that they’ve always made it clear where they want to be.

“We may be evicted in 2018. We want to stay in the city limits of Richmond and we want to be on the Boulevard,” said Dibella. “Most places, these urban areas, are looking to bring in a sports team, not looking to punt them out of town.”

Tammy Hawley, Mayor Jones’ press secretary, says the Boulevard is extremely valuable property. She says they have to do what’s best for residents and that may or may not include baseball on the Boulevard.

“No one has worked harder at finding a home, a location for a new stadium in the city than this administration,” Hawley said.“Generally it’s widely agreed that baseball is not a revenue generator for cities.”

Hawley says the development on the Boulevard has to bring the biggest bang for the buck to help raise revenues for schools, firefighters and police. She says there are plenty of potential sites for a stadium, and that the mayor still supports and wants the team to stay in the region.

“We’re a fan of the Squirrels, we’re a fan of Nutzy, but we’re also a fan of the residents of the city of Richmond,” Hawley said.

Hawley says despite the strong words from the Squirrels’ president, she still believes the team and the administration can continue to work together.

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