Tell me it ain’t so! The Richmond Braves are moving to Georgia! Forty plus years of baseball in the capital city is coming to end. What went wrong? Why is the team leaving? What about the Diamond? All good questions that Richmond fans are asking on this Black Tuesday. If I had to point a finger at the sole cause of the team’s exodus I would point to Richmond Mayor Doug Wilder. Since Mayor Wilder came to power several years ago to “save” Richmond from bureaucratic anarchy, all his administration has done is find ways to create controversy rather than opportunities. The list of controversies is endless from the School Board relocation, to lawsuits against the City Council, the Broad Street Cultural Arts Center, and, of course, the new Brave’s stadium.
Since 2003, the Braves have been requesting either a new venue or improvement to their home due to the deteriorating conditions of the Diamond – rats in the visitor’s dug out, poor drainage on the field, and concrete falling into the seats to name a few examples. Things looked bright in 2003/4 as a new stadium project was conceived for a spot in Shockoe Bottom. Then the freight train called Doug Wilder came into the office and the bottom feel out of the plan.
Since then Wilder has provided several suggestions for a new stadium – rebuild the Diamond at the same location, build across the street, refurbish the Diamond, build on Mayo Island, build near the old gas works on the James River, etc., but when you look closely at these proposals, none of them were ever feasible solutions to the issue. With the clock running (4 years and counting), the Wilder administration has failed to find an ample home for the Brave and to see the urgency to get a deal done.
Many would say they should let the baseball team go since Richmond has so many other pressing issues like the school system, crime, and taxes. However, remember baseball is a business.
Baseball employees personnel, pays for services (lights, food, water), provides tax revenue, and provides entertainment. If baseball left, what will fill the void? How much revenue will the restaurants on the Boulevard lose? Will the Holiday Inn survive without all the visiting teams staying there? How about the rent money the RMA receives? With the lost in rent, will the tolls on the Powhite increase again? Don’t forget the charities that work the concession stands. Their work helps provide money for their various charitable programs that help the needy and poor. Where will those funds come from now? All these items need to be considered before we allow the Braves to leave town.
So, where is Wilder when we need him? Where is the executive leadership that he developed as Governor of Virginia? — That is a good question and a question most of the Richmond Metro area is asking today. What can I say, Wilder is the Marion Berry (former mayor of Washington D.C.) of Richmond, minus the drugs and hookers. His only goal is to increase his stature at the expense of the community. God help us!