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Boulevard Retrofit Won't Start Until R-Braves Get Out

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Richmond won't build it, until they leave.

It's early to call it a bona fide holdup, but the departing Richmond Braves are still technically Richmond property until the International League deems otherwise.

Bids to redevelop North Boulevard from six companies, including one led by former City Manager Robert C. Bobb, were submitted to the city in late February. City officials were expected to present its findings to City Council in April but still haven't done so. A source tells Style that Bobb's team, which wants to tear down the Arthur Ashe Center and The Diamond and build a retailing and "sports megaplex" around a new 8,000-seat baseball stadium, is the leading contender.

There is a slight problem, however: The Braves still hold the franchise rights to Richmond, which means other minor-league baseball teams interested in relocating here are forbidden from talking with city officials.

"Teams within professional baseball cannot be involved with discussions regarding moving into a territory where there is an existing club," says Randy Mobley, president of the Triple-A International League, where the Braves play

Mobley says until the league is certain the stadium in Gwinnett County, Ga., will be open in time for the 2009 season, the Braves own Richmond. "The reason that we don't lift that right away is there is significant work to be done in constructing a facility in Gwinnett," he says. "If something unforeseen arises, we will need to continue there in Richmond."

Mobley says he expects the league will know for certain by mid-July whether the Braves will be able to move into their new stadium. Either way, it shouldn't hold up progress on the North Boulevard redevelopment, Mobley says, especially considering all the interest Richmond is drawing from other teams.

In fact, the Richmond market is "so appealing," Mobley says, that some teams have been willing to forgo being directly involved with the new ballpark's development.

"We are aware that there are other leagues very anxious about coming to Richmond," says Mobley.





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