Like Dracula back from the grave, the controvery over building a baseball stadium in Richmond's historic Shockoe Bottom returns. The newest development is an apparent nod from Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones to build.
Louis Salmonsky, a real estate broker, has bought up property in the proposed stadium site. These two events have have re-ignited the stadium controversy.
The opposition is fueled by various activists, black and white, who want to bring Shockoe Bottom's history in the slave trade to the forefront. The historic preservation issue has led to 20 scholars of African American history opposing the stadium project. (Source : Virginia Defender newspaper.)
The hacker group, Anonymous, has even gotten into the act. They printed information about campaign contributions from real estate lobbyists to the Mayor and City Councilmen. In their usual pseudo threatening, rather pompous style, the hacker group assured the public they were watching over the situation.
Activists cite historical and pragmatic reasons to oppose the stadium.
Historical reasons center around the slave trade in antebellum times. Shockoe Bottom was a mega center, a Wall St. of the slave trade. It housed slave merchants. Slaves were deposited there on ships and were shipped from Richmond to other Southern slave states.
A slave trail where slaves were run from ships to holding pens exists in the Bottom. There is an historical marker honoring slave insurrection leader Gabriel Prosser. Prosser was executed in the area for leading a well known slave revolt in 1800.
Shockoe Bottom also has a recently discovered African American burial ground. This burial ground was largely unknown until about 10 years ago. Activists waged a long term battle for the burial ground reclamation project.
The historic sites in area are supposed to be overseen by the Slave Trail Commission. The commission is headed by state House of Delegates member Dolores Quinn. Activists do not have a lot positive to say about the Commission.
The activist blog, Kontradictions, recently reported that Quinn literally ran away from reporter's questions about the stadium during a Slave Trail Commission meeting. Later, she said a position would be forthcoming in October.
The stadium proposal has also drawn charges of racism. Opponents point out that Richmond, the former capitol of the Confederacy, funds icons of the Confedracy. Among these are statutes of Confederate heroes Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Jefferson Davis.
While the city may not directly fund other Confederate iconic sites , it does so indirectly.
Stadium opponents argue that the Stadium would trample and defile a major area of African American history. The opposition calls for at least parity with Confederate veneration and history.
There are pragmatic concerns. One is traffic and parking. The area is densely packed with restaurants , bars, condos. Parking is at a premium. Others worry that game time traffic would overflow onto major traffic arteries and perhaps the Interstate system.
Another concern is potential flooding. Shockoe Bottom has had a history of flooding. Heavy construction and usage worry some activists that flooding maybe aggravated.
The stadium is supposed to replace the current home of the Richmond Flying Squirrels.The current home is located further out of the downtown area on Blvd. In one form or another, minor league baseball in Richmond has had a home on the Blvd. for 60 years.
Many suburban baseball fans prefer the current location. It is right off I-95 and I-64. This location, many say, is easier to negotiate than a downtown Shockoe Bottom location.
The stadium idea in Shockoe looked like it was defeated two years ago. The activist community rode the victorious tide of the battles to have the historical significance of the African American Burial Grounds recogonized.
Apparently, the real estate brokers and political allies just waited in hopes they could revive the idea. Perhaps they thought the opposition would sleep. On their part, that is wishful thinking. Opposition is rising.