RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond city government announced Monday night that it has reached a deal to build a new baseball stadium by 2026, alongside a neighborhood filled with housing, hotels and shopping known as the Diamond District.

The new stadium will be a major step forward toward keeping the Flying Squirrels in Richmond. It will also anchor the city’s visions for a Diamond District, which will also include businesses, green space and housing.

The announcement came with some changes from the original planning process, which began in October 2021. Since then, the federal interest rate has seen a steep rise, meaning the new Diamond District plan needed a new timeline and a new budget.

Under the newly announced plan, the new stadium is set to open in 2026. To achieve this timeline, Richmond will work with the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to sell the land to the developer, while the City will be responsible for all the public infrastructure in phase one of the Diamond District project.

An incremental tax district will also be created that includes properties bordering Arthur Ashe Boulevard and Hermitage Road. This new tax district is being created to pay for road improvements on Arthur Ashe Boulevard, Hermitage and Robin Hood Road. According to the city, this will create a “gateway experience” for visitors to the Diamond District.

Aside from these changes, much of the original vision for the Diamond District remains the same. The City still hopes to implement a new 10,000-capacity baseball stadium, walkable streets, an 11-acre park, a hotel and new apartments — including affordable housing options.

The developer for the project, RVA Diamond Partners, also wants to partner with the Richmond Public School Board to develop a Technical Training Center to “create an available workforce with sufficient experience to support the development of the Diamond District.”

However, the project will not come cheap. The entire Diamond District was previously estimated to cost  $2.4 billion, and the city will require at least $20 million in bonds just to get started on financing the stadium alone. The new agreement states that funding will come from land sales, enterprise funds and General Obligation Bonds.

The new agreement comes after recent concern for the Squirrels’ future in Richmond. In February, Major League Baseball stated that the Diamond had to meet certain facility standards for minor league baseball stadiums, including an enclosed batting and hitting tunnel for each team and renovated locker rooms.

In April, Flying Squirrels president Lou DiBella said he was concerned Richmond would lose the Squirrels if the new stadium could not meet the MLB’s requirements by the 2025 deadline. However, Mayor Levar Stoney said he is confident the team will remain in the city “for the long term.”

Next in the process, the council will have to approve a development agreement with the EDA, rezone and submit the subdivision of the land for the Diamond District, create Community Development Authority, and develop lease agreements with the Flying Squirrels and Virginia Commonwealth University.

This final agreement was supported by Stoney, Richmond City Council President Michael Jones, councilmember Katherine Jordan, Jason Guillot from RVA Diamond Partners and City of Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders.

“I am incredibly grateful and proud of the city and development team that helped bring this
vision to reality,” Stoney said about Monday’s agreement. “We have hit a home run with this project, and our residents will reap the benefits for years to come.”