Which will occur first: a Richmond Flying Squirrels game at The Diamond, or an announcement about plans to replace the outdated concrete stadium on Arthur Ashe Boulevard? VCU and the Double-A Flying Squirrels, with the city, are working toward a new ballpark along the Hermitage Road Corridor. The Diamond opened in 1985. VCU also plays home games there.
Responding to a recent request from The Richmond Times-Dispatch for information regarding a timeline for the ballpark project, Jim Nolan, the mayor’s press secretary, wrote: “The city is working with VCU and expects to have more to say on any potential development closer to springtime.”
Plans for the VCU Athletics Village, and the included ballpark, come along at a time when Major League Baseball has assumed tighter control of the minors and is mandating improved facilities. Richmond City Council in mid-December unanimously approved the Richmond 300 plan that involves a ballpark that’s part of the projected VCU Athletics Village. Richmond 300 outlines the city’s vision for development and growth.
The Flying Squirrels did not play in 2020 because of the pandemic, whose lasting impact is highly likely to delay the start of the coming season. The Flying Squirrels’ season has historically begun in early April.
According to multiple reports, MLB spring training is projected to begin in mid-February, as usual, with Triple-A players also involved. Unless the national vaccination schedule is greatly accelerated, spring training for Double-A and Class A players is not expected to start until the MLB club and its Triple-A players break camp in late March or early April.
That would allow for great social distancing at spring-training sites.
A late start for the Flying Squirrels’ season — think May, at earliest — would perhaps allow the team to play well into September rather than ending games around Labor Day, which is usually the case.