Come to The Diamond this season and see something never before available at the ballpark on the Boulevard: your face on a modern video board that may be headed to a new Richmond ballpark in about three years, hopes Lou DiBella, the Flying Squirrels’ managing general partner.
The Squirrels on Monday unveiled the $250,000 video board, which will capture on-field action and present movie and TV clips, custom animations, a noise-meter, hat shuffles, and other entertainment. But it will most often be used to highlight fans in the stands.
Compared to its very old school predecessor, the franchise-purchased video board is about 3½ times bigger (600 square feet), offers a much clearer picture, and involves mobile camera capability. Four cameras, two stationary and two roving, will feed the video board. Look for a “Kiss-cam,” a “Belly-cam,” a “Muscle-cam,” and a “Smile-cam.”
In past years, there was a rudimentary video component. The old board mostly displayed still images, such as players’ head shots, or logos. Clarity was lacking.
Video capability now present at The Diamond “is something most other ballparks have been doing for years,” said Chuck Domino, the Squirrels’ chief executive. “So it’s a very exciting time. It’s about time. … Our fans deserve it.”
This is the Squirrels’ 10th season at The Diamond, which is expected eventually to be replaced by a ballpark adjacent to the property, across Hermitage Road, that may be operated by VCU and shared with the Squirrels. DiBella said Monday that the Squirrels plan to transfer the video board to a new stadium.
“Anybody who’s thinking this means there’s any less urgency [for a new stadium], or we’re resigned to being [at The Diamond] for the long-term, my response would be, with all due respect, ‘no.’ That’s not the case,” he said.
“We’re going to be able to move this with us and I’m very optimistic that things are going to move pretty quickly soon, and that there will be something to talk about. And we’ll be bringing that board with us in, hopefully, about three years. That’s my hope.
“This doesn’t signal at all any resignation or pessimism. It signals a realistic need of our fans to have this board to continue to enjoy the best experience in Double-A and in minor league baseball. I still think we’re the best experience. If we had a proper home, we’d be off the charts.”
Also added this season to The Diamond, which opened in 1985, will be 11 high-definition monitors throughout the concourse and near stadium entrances.
Those monitors will show Squirrels’ content and other minor league content.
The franchise’s souvenir store, the Squirrels Nest, is being renovated.
The back of the outfield billboards are being painted green. Ticket booths are being repainted black. The Squirrels on Monday also unveiled their specialty jerseys for the season.
“Part of the reason why everything is working so well in Richmond is that we continue to hold up our end of the bargain,” DiBella said. “Our part of the bargain is as long as we’re there, we’re going to keep improving the stadium. I love my Diamond, but it’s gotten real old for me. If it has gotten old for me, I’m assuming it has gotten very, very old for our fans.
“So I owe it to them to keep improving it as long as we’re there.”
The Eastern League All-Star Game will be played at The Diamond on July 10. The Squirrels, a farm club for the San Francisco Giants, open their season at home on April 4.