There will be no baseball team in Richmond in 2009. But as Richmond planners and the city's chosen development company, Highwoods Properties, begin the uncertain business of moving baseball to Shockoe Bottom, details emerge about another proposal for a ballpark that would have kept baseball on the Boulevard — and a baseball team in Richmond.
When the Robert Bobb Group LLC submitted its proposal earlier this year to redevelop the Boulevard, the company seemed to have what nobody, including the city, had in August: a baseball team.
“We have been offered an expansion team in the Triple-A Level Atlantic League for Richmond, to begin play in 2009,” the Bobb proposal trumpets, an assertion made twice but with no further details.
Highwoods won the contract, but Bobb's company remains involved in the city's plans to redevelop the Boulevard. Highwoods officials say the city asked it to include the Bobb group on the Boulevard piece of the project.
So who was this mystery Triple-A team?
The answer is complicated. Peter Kirk, a vice president with the independent Atlantic League, a minor-league organization not affiliated with Minor League Baseball, is also a principal with Opening Day Partners, a company with which Bobb's group teamed on the proposal to the city. Kirk owns three teams in the Atlantic League — there are eight in all — and likely would have created his own expansion team for the league, custom-made to Richmond's needs.
“[Kirk] owns half the league already; they would have expanded,” says Kevin Reichard, editor of ballparkdigest.com, an online baseball trade publication. That said, Reichard notes, the Atlantic League is not a top-rung Triple-A organization.
“The long story is Peter Kirk had no dealings with affiliated baseball,” Reichard says. The Atlantic League is an independent, which means it is not affiliated with Minor League Baseball. The Bobb plan proposed investing about $1 million in the Diamond to resume play in 2009 — including a portable ice-skating rink that could operate over the field in temperatures as warm as 65 degrees — and then working with the team and the city to build a new stadium.
Bobb did not return telephone calls for comment.
“I don't think Peter means to mislead,” Reichard says.
“Of all the independent-league teams, the Atlantic League level is the best. You'd be looking at guys looking for a second chance at affiliated-league ball at a fairly high level,” he says.