2012-08-15 / Front Page

No commitment to city ballpark funding

By Greg Pearson

Chesterfield leaders are holding firm to the position that before the county makes a decision on whether to help fund a new ballpark in Richmond an understanding on regional priorities has to be reached first.

The issue arose again last week when Style Weekly published a story saying both Chesterfield and Henrico counties had committed to contributing $12.5 million each of the total cost.

In interviews with the Observer last week, Chesterfield officials denied that there has been a commitment.

In the story, Style’s News Editor Scott Bass wrote, “…expected to cost upward of $50 million, Henrico and Chesterfield had quietly agreed to help participate in financing a new stadium on the Boulevard, each paying a quarter of the costs.

Asked about his story during an interview last week, Bass said, “City officials feel Chesterfield and Henrico have intimated they would be willing to fund a ballpark…at the Boulevard site.” That new ballpark would replace The Diamond at the same location.

Bass declined to identify those sources.

The Observer tried to reach David Hicks, senior advisor to Mayor Dwight Jones and a former Richmond commonwealth attorney, to comment on Chesterfield’s role, but he didn’t return a call.

“I’m not aware of any formal or informal agreements to the county,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Gecker. “We have consistently said that we want to set up regional priorities in a comprehensive way. We are not going to participate in funding anything until we have that discussion.”

In an email, Dorothy Jaeckle, the board’s vice chair, wrote, “The Style Weekly article is the first I have heard of the county quietly agreeing to pay one-fourth of the costs of a ballpark on the Boulevard.”

Chesterfield has called for metro Richmond’s major jurisdictions – Chesterfield, Henrico and the city – to determine priorities for regional “civic and cultural resources” that include The Diamond, the Coliseum, the Richmond Cultural Center, Maymont and others.

Gecker and Jaeckle want to include the proposed Cultural Arts Center in Chester, which has stalled because of declining county revenues. Henrico is likely to want to put its Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center on the list.

Many in Chesterfield believe that city leaders want county funding but don’t want to share decision making with regional partners.

Richmond is also wrestling with funding questions about the summer training camp for the Washington Redskins and has asked for financial help in staging the 2015 UCI Road World Championships. That international bike race is projected to cost $21 million.

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