Richmond Times-Dispatch hosted their mayoral forum on September 15th and on October 23rd the editorial board endorsed Jack Berry. The only thing that surprises me is that they waited over five weeks to make an endorsement that everyone anticipated. While some saw it as a foregone conclusion, others are upset they would endorse a candidate who has a long history of involvement and supporting plans that were not in the best interest of the city. It is a lot of things, but it is not surprising that RTD Editorial Board would endorse a candidate they have shared opinions with in the past. Buckle up because this compilation seeks to highlight parts of the Shockoe Stadium timeline that make us cringe including RTD Editorial Board support and Jack Berry's role in the process amid resident dissent.
August 12, 2012: "Time to act: Build a ballpark downtown" by Jack Berry and Kim Scheeler
No good horror story starts without a prologue to give context and backstory. Think of this as a flashback. This article provides a good level set from the man himself about the vision for Shockoe Stadium and retail development on the Boulevard.
Richmond Times-Dispatch sponsored a regional poll about the stadium. Results showed 67% of respondents preferred a Boulevard stadium.
Dwight Jones's official announcement.
November 17, 2013: "Silvestri: Shockoe plan's the major pivot" by Tom Silvestri
Tom Silvestri has been the president and publisher of the Richmond Times-Dispatch since 2005. In this article, Silvestri shares his support for the Shockoe Stadium plan listing a litany of benefits with this plan. Some of his statements are legitimate benefits while others are based in his biased perceptions of the city.
January 6, 2014: "Virginia struggle to defend Black history: 'No stadium in Shockoe Bottom!'" by Workers World staff
"No one should underestimate (Jones') political skills. The leadership he is providing is exactly what a lot ofpeople had in mind when they voted for the strong mayor form of government. Onward." (email from Jack Berry)
February 4, 2014: "Pro-stadium ad appears in publication funded by Richmond taxpayers" by Graham Moomaw
There was a "Loving RVA" ad placed in Richmond City Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities winter/spring program guide. Loving RVA is basically the PR campaign Venture Richmond used to gain support of the Shockoe Stadium and Boulevard Redevelopment plans. Included in the full-page ad was a link to the Loving RVA website where viewers could sign a petition for city council to support the plan.
Loving RVA's promotional campaign had individuals going door-to-door to gain support of the stadium plan. Accusations fly that J.J. Minor, chair of Richmond City Democratic Committee and son of the city's Slave Trail Commission chair, was involved with organizing the individuals going door-to-door.
February 25, 2014: "400+ Citizens Showed Up to Yell at City Council About the Future of Baseball in Shockoe" by Mike Platania
Five hour log city council with over 400 citizens in attendance speaking out against the stadium to preserve the history of Shockoe Bottom.
March 17, 2014: "Top Opinion: Baseball stadium- Might have been" by RTD Editorial Board
In March 2014, the RTD Editorial Board endorsed the plan to put the stadium in Shockoe Bottom.
"Although our initial inclinations favored the Boulevard, we have endorsed the concept of a stadium in the Bottom. The project likely serves as the best vehicle for building an appropriate museum and memorial dedicated to recording the history of slavery and its aftermath. The Boulevard may have rated as the preferred option for baseball alone, but the Bottom may rate as the preferred option for Richmond more generally."
April 12, 2014: "Today's top opinion: Wrap-up" by RTD Editorial Board
"And speaking of civil rights: The stadium and related development proposed for Shockoe Bottom might be essential to ensuring that the story of slavery and its aftermath in Richmond and Virginia (and the U.S.) receives its due."
April 30, 2014: "Developers offer to build Boulevard ballpark" by Graham Moomaw
An alternative plan with private financing was presented.
May 6, 2014: "Today's top opinion: Good grief" by RTD Editorial Board
The summary of this article is the RTD Editorial Board is of the opinion that the stadium has been debated enough and is causing Richmond to receive bad publicity so it should just be approved because it is the best plan for Richmond. It comes to a strong close suggesting if we are still debating this in five years that the Flying Squirrels should change their name to "Disputatious Dilettantes" as it more accurately describe the region. Disputatious means "fond of or causing heated arguments" and Dilettante means "a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge." So not only is RTD Editorial Board condemning the negative press the push back on Shockoe Stadium garnered, but they are also calling Richmonders "dilettantes" in a poor attempt at a humorous close.
May 27, 2014: "Mayor withdraws Shockoe ballpark proposal" by P. Kevin Morley
On May 26th, Mayor Dwight Jones withdrew the proposal to avoid City Council voting against the proposal.
June 3, 2014: "Goldman: 10 legal flaws exposed in Mayor Jones' Shockoe Stadium plan" by Paul Goldman
This is an opinion piece from Paul Goldman outlining the legal challenges the Shockoe Stadium plan has.
June 6, 2014: "Venture Richmond head promises Shockoe stadium revival" by Ted Strong and "Jack Berry Praises 'Upswing of Downtown' Richmond" by Phil Riggan
Both of these articles refer to a presentation of the revitalization plan by Jack Berry to the Retail Merchant's Association. Also in attendance at the meeting was Berry's mayoral campaign co-chair, Jim Ukrop. At the end of the article, Berry says this plan focuses on those who are not concerned with the school system for now because great schools are not downtown.
Berry pitched the plan as a way to revitalize two areas of the city - Shockoe Bottom and the Boulevard area, where the Squirrels now play at the Diamond- and a way to preserve the city's slave trade heritage in the Bottom. "I just don't believe that we're going to walk away from that," he said. He said he believes "completely" in the plan. James E. "Jim" Ukrop, a former supermarket executive and leading civic figure urged people at the breakfast meeting to contact City Council members to urge them to back the plan. "I think they're going to be on the wrong side of history if they continue to oppose this proposal," Ukrop said.
June 23, 2014: "Shockoe Bottom ballpark proposal could bury Richmond's slave history, group warns" by Susan Svrluga
National Trust for Historic Preservation says Shockoe Bottom neighborhood history is threatened by the Revitalize RVA proposal.
A month and a half after Mayor Jones withdrew his proposal, no further meetings with City Council had taken place but a private event took place where Jack Berry presented the proposal. The host of the event indicated there was no new information presented but people left with an increased support for the project.
July 16, 2014: "Chamber behind full-page stadium letter" by Graham Moomaw
In July 2014, a full-page ad ran with an open letter to Richmond supporting the stadium plan. The letter promoted the Loving RVA promotional campaign but was paid for by the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
Not only did the Flying Squirrels not want to be involved in the lobbying, but they were not looped in on the promotional ad.
"The fact that I never saw it and our ownership never saw it, having our name at the bottom is objectionable," [Lou DiBella, president and general managing partner of the franchise] said.
July 17, 2015: "Stadium bombshell: Jones essentially drops plan for Shockoe Bottom ballpark" by Juan Conde
Dwight Jones moves in a different direction for Shockoe Bottom.