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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Public Square - Baseball in Richmond

I spoke at a town meeting tonight. I actually botched it pretty good, but I toughed it out and got through it. Public speaking makes me nervous and the more I care about what I am saying, the harder it is. I did not do as well as I wanted, but I'll chalk it up to experience. Next time I will be better rehearsed, more relaxed and more casual. Next time meaning Monday before the City Council. More later.

Here are my written remarks.

I’d like you to imagine a balmy Spring evening joining the flow of fans moving towards a brick ballpark, think Camden Yards. Some have come down on busses or maybe the new trolleys, some are being shuttled from nearby parking garages after driving in from the suburbs and others are conventioneers or visitors who are glad to have a pleasant diversion so close by. There is a spirit of adventure, families with excited kids walk down the streets of Shockoe Bottom past hawkers selling scorecards and snowcones. I get excited thinking about it.

Baseball, by itself doesn’t mean a heck of a lot. If it doesn’t contribute to the lifeblood and greater good of the city, we shouldn’t be investing in it. But if we are going to be investing in it, let’s put our money where it can accomplish the greatest good. What are the secondary benefits of the Diamond? Almost none as far as I can see. It’s a freeway park. Convenience is it’s main drawing card, but this convenience has it’s price. Look at the area around the Diamond and tell me that’s the best of Richmond. It’s as inviting as an industrial park, which is what it is. Fans stream in and fans stream out and see nothing more than freeway and a parking lot.

I think a downtown ballpark has a lot to offer besides baseball. A magnificent riverfront, a wonderful restaurant and entertainment district , history everywhere you turn and you know what, baseball is history too. Downtown is lacking one major ingredient. People and something for them to do when they get there. That’s two and actually there’s much more, but people are the key ingredient. Imagine what ½ million visitors to downtown would do. They would discover history and character of this city. I think a new stadium has the potential to remake the image of downtown and the city. I’ve lived in cities that had freeway ballparks and cities have baseball downtown and there’s no comparison. I believe baseball belongs downtown. I think this is something we all could be proud of.

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