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Star Player Joins Fight Against UR Stadium


While the University of Richmond moves forward with pre-season deals to expand its on-campus football stadium, neighbors have made an aggressive draft pick to help voice their traffic concerns.

Anticipating ongoing negotiations with the city and the university, the Three Chopt Road Civic Association has retained Ralph "Bill" Axselle Jr. -- an attorney who parlayed his 16 years of service in the House of Delegates into a career as a powerful lobbyist.

"We're confident the city will, at the end of the day, impose the appropriate conditions," says Axselle, who received his law degree from UR.

For years the university has wanted to move its Spider football team home from the old, hard-to-fill 22,000-seat city stadium south of Carytown. In January, UR announced that a $5 million donation from the Robins Foundation had pushed it over the $25 million fundraising goal line. The school filed for a special-use permit with the city Feb. 20 seeking clearance to enlarge the existing on-campus First Market Stadium from 3,000 seats to 8,700 seats.

Three Chopt Road Civic Association's president, William Berry, says he'll monitor modifications to the sound and lighting scheme, but neighbors are worried most about the traffic.

"We're not opposed to the stadium; we just want them to do it right," says Berry, former president of Dominion Resources and a UR alumnus. He says the university needs to consider adding an additional entrance or exit to the stadium to keep traffic from clogging Three Chopt Road.

Adding another entrance or exit could get tricky. The backside of the property touches Henrico County. Tuckahoe District Supervisor Pat O'Bannon says residents along Horsepen Road are also wary of traffic and are opposed to a proposed new road connecting Horsepen to the university.

John McCulla, UR's community relations director, says the university has brainstormed ideas to stem the traffic: reserving the lots nearest the field for vehicles with four or more fans, installing more bike racks, providing an internal shuttle system to make inconvenient parking less so and launching a campaign to make visitors more aware of other campus entrances.

He says the indoor basketball arena next to the stadium, the Robins Center, seats just more than 9,000, and the university has responsibly managed traffic from the season's 15 home games for years.

The specter of those extra few days of heavy traffic may provide an opening for the neighbors to address the situation.

"If you come up with another entrance and exit," Berry says, "then you've solved a problem for football, but you've also solved it for the Robins Center and the rest of the university. It's a three-fer."

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