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Boulevard Ballpark Is Back in Play

Developers are poised to reintroduce privately financed stadium proposal.



In early May, Rebkee Co. floated a proposal to build a privately financed baseball stadium on the Boulevard, but withdrew the plan after a cool reception from Mayor Dwight Jones' office.

But since then, Jones has withdrawn his own proposal, and Rebkee now appears poised to reenter the debate.

Three Richmond City Council members tell Style that they met with representatives from the company this week. Rebkee told the council members -- Reva Trammell, Parker Agelasto and Charles Samuels -- that the first stage of the planned development is fully financed. Future stages would depend on the success of the first, they said.

Rebkee was unreachable for comment Saturday, though the council members said the company intends to release a detailed accounting of its plan Sunday -- likely through the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

While Rebkee has approached City Council, the mayor's chief policy adviser David Hicks says that as far as he knows the company hasn’t approached the mayor’s office. It's unclear how much support the plan will get from City Council.

Agelasto says it appears that the city needs to formally solicit private proposals, which could include the Rebkee plan, and weigh its options. He echoes earlier comments from Councilman Chris Hilbert, who has said the only way he would support a stadium proposal if it goes through a public bidding procedure.

Trammell was more enthusiastic. "It’s a win for all of us," she says. "It’ something that if you don’t embrace, there’s something wrong with you."

As outlined previously by Councilman Jon Baliles, Rebkee’s proposal calls for an 8,000-seat stadium on 10 acres on the Boulevard, near where The Diamond is located. The developer would finance the project with private investment. The 60-acre site, owned by the city, would be built out in phases, the first of which would include residential, retail and restaurant development.

Rebkee has said that it's lined up financing and performed due diligence on costs of a new stadium on the Boulevard, and that it could be ready to open in April 2016, the same goal for opening a Shockoe stadium.

Based in Midlothian, Rebkee has built dozens of shopping centers in Virginia, including Willow Lawn. It’s also developing apartments at the Interbake building on the Boulevard, as well as three suburban shopping centers: The Shoppes at Westchester in Midlothian, The Corner at Short Pump and The Shire in Richmond.

Six days after their plan was made public, Rebkee officials wrote a letter to the mayor, apparently withdrawing the plan. They wrote that they intended to offer it as a “face-saving place to turn in the event the difficulties that are rumored to be hampering the completion of the city’s proposed project … turn out to be insurmountable.”

They also wrote that the mayor “made it abundantly clear” he didn’t want an alternative plan if the Shockoe Bottom project didn’t work out: “While we don’t agree this is in the city’s best interest, we respect that decision.”

Their proposal also was scoffed at by such Shockoe Bottom ballpark supporters as Venture Richmond. Developer Dan Gecker made it clear he was displeased by the way the city handled news of the alternative proposal, as seen in communication obtained by Style through the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Jones subsequently withdrew his ballpark proposal because of lack of support from City Council. But he insists that the proposal isn't dead and intends to reintroduce it.

Last week he attended a private meeting in the Fan with a group of about 70 supporters. Proponents also have released new promotional materials touting the plan, including a flier titled, “Great cities do great things.”

Opponents, too, have redoubled their efforts. On Friday, new billboards went up along Interstate 95. One thanks the five council members who said they oppose the plan.

Samuels, who is City Council president, says he doesn't expect the mayor to introduce any stadium related matters at Monday's council meeting.

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