Richmond Coliseum future in question, misses another opportunity for major tournament

The May 2019 graduating class will not have a University-sponsored commencement ceremony after the University administration was unable to find a new location. The ceremony had been held in the Richmond Coliseum the past 46 years. Photo by Erin Edgerton

Mackenzie LaBar
Contributing Writer

The Richmond Coliseum is no longer being considered as a host for significant NCAA basketball tournaments — among other sporting events — calling into question the future of the 48-year-old city landmark.

According to House Bill 1237, the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority (RMTA) is authorized to construct, own, and operate coliseums and arenas.

Although the 2016 bill allows RMTA to construct a plan for replacing the coliseum, no further steps have been taken in the two years since the bill passed. This leaves the coliseum operational but seemingly undesirable — illustrated by a lack of events and sports gatherings such as indoor football games with the Richmond Raiders and West Virginia Roughriders.

“Roughly, it’s $800,000 to $1 million each year to try to make sure we’re covering all the costs of [the coliseum’s] operation,” said Richmond City Councilwoman Kim Gray. “We should be imagining a more regional facility that everybody shares in the benefits of having, but they also share the costs of building.”

Gray also spoke on this public dislike for “shiny object projects” — she said investing in projects like the Washington Training Camp and Main Street Station is inappropriate given the need for school development and sidewalk construction.

“It seems to be a real focus that we always want to build these nice, new facilities for event venues,” Gray said. “And we’re not investing in current school infrastructure at the level that we need to be.”

One of the public opinions regarding the local reputation of the coliseum is that it’s never had events that appeal to local young people, according to VCU sophomore and Richmond native Grayland Smith.

“The coliseum never really had appealing events to go to, at least for me,” Smith said. “The sports aren’t relevant, the [surrounding] area isn’t the best. So I definitely understand why [the city would] want to start over.”

Gray said a plan for mass city development was proposed by wealthy Richmonders that included an improved coliseum, a new hotel, more than 2,000 new apartments, a new parking deck and a potential new building for the Department of Social Services. However, the plan’s cost breaks $1 billion and — with seven votes needed to push it through City Council — the plan’s future remains uncertain.

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