Things are starting to look bleak for Mayor Dwight Jones’ plan to put a ballpark in Shockoe Bottom.
The proposal, announced a month ago, needs seven votes from the nine-member City Council. So far, two council members have said they plan to vote against the measure and, as of late last week, three more have expressed serious reservations.
The latest, 1st District Councilman Jon Baliles, previously had been considered a relatively safe vote for the administration. The assumption was that Baliles’ West End district, the reddest in the city, likely would follow downtown business leaders in supporting the plan.
But in a letter Baliles sent to Jones on Friday, he questioned the financial analysis behind the mayor’s assertion that keeping the ballpark on the Boulevard would generate half as much revenue for the city as a Shockoe Bottom stadium. Among other points, he suggested that if alternate parking scenarios are explored, it could be that a Boulevard ballpark leaves room for the development Jones is counting on to boost city coffers. (Read the full letter on Baliles’ website.)
Baliles pointed to two municipalities, including Fredericksburg, that faced a similar debate but “took a second look at other options after realizing the first option is not always the best one.”
“There are simply more questions than answers,” Baliles wrote, “and thus it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for me to lend my support to this proposal.”
Baliles is a tough read, and he still could come through for Jones. In an interview with Style, Baliles said he still hasn’t made up his mind. “I’m not planting the flag right now,” he said. “I’m just saying the plan needs to be made better to protect the city.”
So with that, Baliles moves from likely-yes to the toss-up column in Style’s revolving prediction matrix. He joins Chris Hilbert (3rd District) and Charles Samuels (2nd).
In the likely-no column are Reva Trammell (8th) and Parker Agelasto (5th).
Still in the likely-yes column are Ellen Robertson (6th), Kathy Graziano (4th), Cynthia Newbille (7th), and Michele Mosby (9th).
Jones appears to be in the unenviable position of needing to win over three skeptical council members to a plan he’s presented as an all-or-nothing proposition that, if tweaked, falls to pieces.
The Redskins deal came down to a compromise hashed out with a single councilman just days before the final vote. The question now for the ballpark plan is: If it’s going to pass, what kind of concessions might the administration make and what council members will be at the negotiating table?