While the poll showed a distinct difference of opinion between the residents of the city and those in the surrounding counties over the Washington Redskins Training Center, city and county residents alike were against moving the baseball stadium from its present location on North Boulevard.
The Diamond, originally called Parker Field, opened in 1954, and has been the home of minor league baseball since that time. A majority of the 694 people polled last month in the city of Richmond and the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover said they think the Diamond should remain where it is located now.
Many of those polled pointed out that the location of the baseball stadium, where access is easier from the north and west off Interstate 95 is one of the major reasons for leaving the Diamond at its present location. Support, based on this reason was highest among Hanover and Henrico County residents.
Of the Richmond residents polled, only 25 percent supported a stadium in Shockoe Bottom, compared with 64 percent on the Boulevard. A survey taken in 2012 showed that 53 percent of Squirrels fans come from the three surrounding counties, with only 13 percent from Richmond.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels, a Double A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, don't agree with the results of the poll, with team officials saying the prospects of a long-term commitment are dependent on having a new stadium built. Our Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves abandoned Richmond after the 2008 season for a new stadium in Georgia.
Even so, Mayor Dwight C. Jones seems ready to announce a new stadium as part of a private economic development project in Shockoe Bottom, and it looks like it will come to pass, regardless of what the majority of the people of the city think. Tammy D. Hawley, the mayor’s press secretary, said in response to the poll’s findings that;
“we feel it is most useful to discuss specifics of proposals and not debate concepts.”
In other words, the poll means nothing to the Mayor's office. But this brings up another issue related to the ongoing debate on where to put a new stadium. The poll also showed that interest in the stadium debate, going on since 2003, is highest with county residents, while less than half the city residents polled were even aware of a debate.
While many say the building of a stadium in Shockoe Bottom will be dependent on financing, there is also considerable political opposition present, as well as opposition because of desecrating a historically significant Civil War era site, the notorious Lumpkin's Jail and slave burial ground.
Even though the public is divided on whether or not to build a new stadium, or for that matter, where to put it, over two-thirds of those polled agree that having a minor league baseball team does have a positive impact on the quality of life in the Richmond region. Let us just hope that the Mayor and City Council is listening to the voice of the people.