VCU buys land for Ath­let­ics Vil­lage

$11.75M pur­chase on Hermitage Road is next to Di­a­mond

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - BY WAYNE EPPS JR. Richmond Times-Dis­patch

VCU an­nounced Thurs­day that the school’s Board of Visi­tors has ap­proved the pur­chase of 10.94 acres of land on Hermitage Road. The land will be used for the school’s Ath­let­ics Vil­lage pro­ject.

The cost of the land is $11.75 mil­lion. Ed McLaugh­lin, VCU vice pres­i­dent and di­rec­tor of ath­let­ics, said in a re­lease that the pur­chase is be­ing fi­nanced by a low­in­ter­est loan that’ll paid with rev­enue from the ath­let­ics depart­ment. No state or tu­ition funds will be used.

“This ac­qui­si­tion rep­re­sents an im­por­tant step in the fu­ture of our univer­sity and our Cen­tral Vir­ginia Com­mu­nity,” VCU pres­i­dent Michael Rao said in a state­ment. “It en­ables VCU Ath­let­ics to move op­er­a­tions from core cam­pus ar­eas and free them for much-needed new aca­demic fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing a STEM build­ing now un­der con­struc­tion at the site of the for­mer Franklin Street Gym.

“From a gen­der eq­uity per­spec­tive, this pro­ject helps us align more prop­erly with our peers across the

coun­try. We have taken steps to sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove the stu­dent-ath­lete ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

The land was owned by Grey­hound Lines, Inc., and used for a main­te­nance fa­cil­ity. It touches Hermitage Road, Cum­mings Drive and Hardy Street, and is next to The Sal­va­tion Army Fam­ily Store & Do­na­tion Cen­ter at 2601 Hermitage Road.

As part of a univer­sity master plan, VCU’s Ath­let­ics Vil­lage is due to in­clude an in­door/out­door ten­nis cen­ter, an in­door mul­ti­pur­pose fa­cil­ity, prac­tice fields and a base­ball park.

“We have worked on this part of the pro­ject for more than two years to get to this step. We have sev­eral steps re­main­ing on other key parcels of land, but this pro­ject demon­strates our com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing world-class Divi­sion I fa­cil­i­ties so our stu­dent-ath­letes can com­pete for cham­pi­onships at the high­est level,” McLaugh­lin said in a state­ment. “We look for­ward to work­ing with lo­cal and state of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity lead­ers to fi­nal­ize the pro­ject soon and shape a vi­sion that can trans­form the area.”

VCU’s cur­rent, on-cam­pus

Thal­himer Ten­nis Cen­ter would be va­cated as part of the plan. Franklin Street Gym, the for­mer home of VCU bas­ket­ball and of VCU base­ball prac­tice space, is set to be de­mol­ished in a process that will start Mon­day, mak­ing way for the STEM build­ing.

There is a 22-acre plot of land on Hermitage Road on which dis­cus­sion has cen­tered con­cern­ing VCU’s Ath­let­ics Vil­lage pro­ject. That land is cur­rently oc­cu­pied by the Vir­ginia Al­co­holic Bev­er­age Con­trol Au­thor­ity’s head­quar­ters. The Times-Dis­patch re­ported last year that VCU would also be in­ter­ested in “up to 16 acres of ad­join­ing prop­erty to de­velop the Ath­let­ics

Vil­lage.”

ABC broke ground last month at the site of its new head­quar­ters in Hanover County. The Hermitage Road land, owned by the state, would then be­come avail­able when ABC moves in 2021.

The Times-Dis­patch re­ported last year that Gov. Ralph Northam’s pro­posed bud­get pro­vides VCU the right of first re­fusal to the land.

A new ball­park, as part of the Ath­let­ics Vil­lage, would be shared by VCU and the Dou­ble-A Richmond Fly­ing Squir­rels.

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