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Sans Spiders, City Stadium Arouses Interest

VCU Rams Football a possibility?


Now that the University of Richmond has its new on-campus football stadium, the fate of the city-owned stadium where the Spiders used to play is up for grabs.

“There has been a fair amount of interest in the property,” says Peter Chapman, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for economic and community development.  Chapman won't say whether the city intends to sell or lease the stadium.

Bounded by McCloy Street, Freeman Road and Maplewood Avenue, the stadium site measures a little less than 16.6 acres. It's a valuable piece of property. The city has assessed the value of the land and facilities at $5.3 million; a nearby parking lot is worth another $329,000.

“I know that VCU's interested, because it's not too far from their campus,” says Rachel Flynn, the city's director of planning and development review.

Virginia Commonwealth University might be interested in the property as it explores the possibility of starting a football program. Norwood T. Teague, the university's athletic director, has said it's “definitely possible” the university will field a team in the near future, possibly at Richmond Stadium, but it likely will need significant upgrades. “UR left. They didn't leave because it was state of the art,” Teague said in the spring.

Despite past complaints about traffic and noise, two civic leagues in the surrounding neighborhoods have passed resolutions stating that they'd like the site to remain a stadium, Fifth District Councilman E. Martin Jewell says. Before any decision is made, Chapman says, “we will have all due outreach to and engagement of external stakeholders and neighborhood stakeholders.”

A few years back, rumors surfaced that the city Department of Economic Development wanted to build condominiums on the site, Jewell says. The councilman says he'd love to see it remain a stadium because only a few city high schools have the lights and bleachers needed to hold night games. “We really need to provide a space so that these kids hopefully can go back to night football,” Jewell says, “where mom and dad can be off work and can come to the game and watch the kids.”
UR, which has played football there for 80 years, has no opinion on how the site could best be used, Deputy Athletic Director David Walsh says.

Council scheduled a meeting on Sept. 7 to discuss changing the name of the stadium from “Richmond Stadium” to “City Stadium” — which Jewell says was the original name of the stadium bestowed in a 1929 ordinance. The speedy name change is to avoid confusing Spiders' fans who might follow signs to the old stadium, Jewell says.

The first football game at the shiny new Robins Stadium is Sept. 18.

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