When the Richmond Baseball Initiative push for building a baseball stadium started complicating the $18.5 million plan to refurbish The Diamond, which is owned by the Richmond Metropolitan Authority, I didn't like the way some of the talk went; especially R-Braves general manager Bruce Baldwin's finger-pointing at the RMA's general manager Mike Berry.
It all seems like a long time ago, now.
The RMA's deal fell apart when the counties bolted. Then the Atlanta Braves and the Richmond Braves were sold from Time Warner to Liberty Media and the controversial notion for a new stadium in Shockoe Bottom faded away, as the numbers didn't seem to add up.
Then Mayor Doug Wilder staged his Friday Night Fiasco; a few days later the Braves management and Gwinnett County began their talks about putting what were then the R-Braves in stadium to be built in the suburbs of Atlanta. Three months later the news broke that 2008 would be the last season for the R-Braves to play their home games on the Boulevard.
Days before the end of Wilder's term as mayor, the Shockoe Bottom baseball stadium concept reappeared, like magic! It seemed the squirrelly Wilder had changed his mind, again.
Bryan Bostic (previously with RBI) announced that he and his partners would buy a minor league team to play in a stadium that developer Highwoods Properties would build. This time, we were assured the numbers would add up.
Of course, there's much more to this story and I'm still not so sure about the numbers. Over the years, my original objections to a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom have been bolstered and I've formed some new objections, as I've been drawn deeper into the story.
The only objection I will reiterate now is the original one: The backers and boosters for this baseball stadium scheme seem to believe that baseball in Shockoe Bottom will be successful even if some good part of what were the R-Braves fans don't come to the new team's games. Baseball fans don't matter to them.
Well, I'm convinced they are wrong. I think they are so concerned about real estate, they have taken their eyes off the ball.
They seem to believe that if you stuff enough distractions into the picture people are going to pay to see a baseball game, but they won't care about watching the game. Put a miniature golf course in the ballpark. Put in a Ferris wheel and a waterslide, etc. They're going to attract so many loyal fans of activities like Dunk-the-Bozo and bumper cars that it won't matter how many true baseball fans show up.
In other words, baseball will just be a backdrop. The game itself will be used like mood music in the background.
Of minor league baseball, Bostic has said, "It's not about wins and losses, it's about the experience ... it's not about the game, it's about sunsets."
Maybe he's right.
Maybe so much has changed that baseball fans don't care about baseball, anymore. I expect to hear that point made tonight at the forum. We'll see if I'm the only guy left in town who still thinks it matters what baseball fans who DO WATCH the game itself want in the way of a baseball park.
Update: At the Public Square forum at least two-thirds of the speakers were clearly not in favor of the Shockoe Bottom baseball proposal. The audience broke the same way. The Highwoods Properties VP, Paul Kreckman, complained that they were "ill-informed" to disagree with him.