Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bostic, Baldwin and Wilder

Now that the scheme to build a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom is dead for the second time, we can look back on how this story has flapped in the breeze since October of last year. The drumbeat that it would happen, no matter what objections were raised, lasted nine months.

Regular readers of SLANTblog know that I raised more than a few objections.

Well, it has turned out all that drumming was just a noisy distraction. Some of the people who tried to pass themselves off as experts, or in-the-know, were just amateurish spin doctors. It says here the noisiest proponents of baseball in Shockoe Bottom must have known they never had the general public behind the Highwoods Properties plan, so they just beat their drums harder.

At times the debate online was sidetracked by the absurdity of anonymous supporters of the Highwoods scheme striking angry poses, ostensibly because they weren't getting the respect they said they deserved.

At a public forum on where to play baseball opponents of the Highwoods/RBC plan were characterized as being too old and set in their ways to matter; they were called "selfish." Online they were frequently called worse.

All along, one of the biggest problems the Shockoe Bottom stadium concept had was that it really wasn't all that much about baseball. It was about real estate. The plan was to lure baseball fans to the Shockoe Center, where they would spend lots of money on whatever retail opportunities would be adjacent to the stadium.

Of course, if the baseball games didn't draw as well as Richmond Baseball Club's Bryan Bostic promised they would, anybody could see there might be a problem with tilting a huge development on the success of a Double A baseball team affiliated with the San Francisco Giants.

Then there was the matter of many Richmonders thinking that Shockoe Botoom is better suited to development to do with its unique history and transportation improvements.

Over the last five years Mr. Bostic has probably done more to injure baseball fans in Richmond than anyone else, in spite of what he has said were his intentions. Hopefully, from now on we will hear much less from him about how much he loves baseball.

Bruce Baldwin, the last general manager for the Richmond Braves, also deserves to be mentioned on any list of those who injured local baseball lovers. Throw in former Richmond mayor Doug Wilder, and there you have it -- the three guys who deserve the most credit for driving the International League out of Richmond.

It isn't known how this will turn out. Today I won't make any predictions about how long it's going to take to fix it. But at least Richmond has dodged the Shockoe Bottom Center bullet.


Tom said...

Amazing post, Terry.

Amazing in that you blame three people for driving baseball out of Richmond when in fact, if you recall that Calvin Jamison started all this when the plan to redo the Diamond was all but agreed on and he said put a stadium next to the Federal Reserve, and then it went haywire from there.

You forgot to mention the guys from DC who tried to sell a false bill of goods and who Wilder actually said thanks but no thanks and then came up with his crazy Fulton Bottom idea.

And you also forgot the RMA, who neglected the stadium upkeep for years while concrete fell, toilets and fountains busted, and water flooded the outfield.

And lets not forget the fans who claim to love baseball and the Diamond but even in recent years when the Braves made it to the Governor's Cup (lost in 2004 and won in 2007), attendance was way down.

Anyone else I am leaving out in the blame game of driving baseball from Richmond? Blaming it on three people is absurd. This has been a collective failure of our leaders, our citizens, and or city.

F.T. Rea said...


Get off your high horse. I never said the three men I cited were the only people who contributed to the departure of the R-Braves.

While Jamison's idea for a downtown baseball stadium in 2001 played a role in the story, that particular trial balloon came and went a couple of years before the RMA's $18.5 million deal came unraveled.

It was Bostic's RBI group's plan for Shockoe Bottom that scuttled the renovation of the Diamond that was to have taken place after the 2004 season.

Furthermore, the RMA takes its orders from the governments of Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield.

paul_h said...

Glad to see you have resorted to fair criticism of both sides. It's about time we had some balance around here.

Oh, I forgot, this is Slantblog. Never mind.

F.T. Rea said...

Paul H,

Please try to pick a fight somewhere else.

paul_h said...

It's your kitchen, but sure.

Tom said...

You're right Terry, you didn't say they were the only three. And I didn't say that you were only blaming those three, I said there were plenty of others, you just chose to leave them out.

And pre-Jaminson there was a draft plan to renovate the Diamond as well as after it.

Like I said, it was a COLLECTIVE failure. You just choose to focus on one part of it.

But like Paul said, it's your kitchen, but your food is spoiled.