Forgotten amidst a city-wide development controversy, VCU baseball and the Richmond Flying Squirrels already seem content with their existing home.
A development group called the Richmond Baseball Initiative submitted the infamous Shockoe Bottom Stadium plan in 2008. The plan, which was quickly retracted in light of immediate backlash from the Richmond community, included designs that placed the new stadium on historically significant ground where slaves were once sold off and shipped away on the James River.
Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones dropped his designs for a similar plan in 2015, which included a Kroger grocery store and apartment complex.
The Diamond on Boulevard was constructed in 1985 and has been the home of both the Rams and the Flying Squirrels since 2009. VCU head coach Shawn Stiffler covets the unique relationship.
“The Richmond Flying Squirrels are an unbelievable organization,” Stiffler said. “I couldn’t imagine going to work every day with a better group of people. They care about our players deeply.”
Renovations finished in 2011 transformed the aging Diamond into a genuine collegiate attraction. Party decks and modernized seating have been added to a stadium that accommodates 12,134 at maximum capacity. In comparison, a typical college baseball park houses 3,000 – 4,000 spectators. VCU runs shuttles to and from all home games, which are free for students with a valid ID. The Diamond even serves beer.
“The Diamond’s awesome,” Stiffler said. “It’s a beautiful ballpark and huge recruiting tool for us. But because we’re off campus, I think there is more of an opportunity here than most VCU students understand.”
The Diamond is located at 3001 N. Boulevard St., a mere 10 minute drive from campus, but as Stiffler hinted the proximity from campus still seems to deter students.
“I’ve never been to a baseball game to be honest with you,” said VCU sophomore Ryan Carston of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. “My frat doesn’t do nights at the Diamond or anything like that. I guess we just never really thought about it.”
Many students like Carston are unaware of the opportunities presented by VCU’s unique situation at The Diamond. Stiffler however, realizes his program has the field of their dreams.
“Land aside, if we built something new we would have to match a pretty high standard,” Stiffler said. “This is what’s realistic the way our school is set up, and I think we have as good a situation as you can find in college baseball. I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else.”
Zachary Joachim, Contributing Writer
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