BEEN THERE, DONE THAT: I saw the R-Braves play a home game in early September 2000, and stopped to take photos in September 2004.
The Diamond has as high a physical profile as some major league stadiums, and it looks very impressive as one drives past it on I-64. The grandstand only stretches a short distance beyond first base and third base, however, with no seats down the lines or beyond the outfield fence. The field dimensions are identical to those at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the old home of the parent organization of the AAA Richmond Braves. (The "R-Braves" moved to Gwinnett, Georgia in 2009; see below.) The grandstand structure is similar as well. Structurally, it's basically just one big deck, but there is a level of "skyboxes" above the box seat sections, thus dividing the stands into two distinct levels. (Twelve rows are below, and 29 rows are above.) The upward-angled roof is huge, covering at least half of the seats, even though it lacks any supporting columns.
The Diamond was built on the same site as Parker Field, the previous minor league ballpark in Richmond. It's located two miles northwest of downtown Richmond, in an area full of warehouses. Immediately to the north is the Arthur Ashe Center, named for the late great tennis player from Richmond, and just to the southeast is a football stadium. Across the railroad tracks to the south is where the new summer training facility for the Washington Redskins is located, near the Science Museum of Virginia, which occupies the old Broad Street passenger raiload station. The Diamond was closed for a few weeks in August 2004 because heavy rains associated with tropical storms caused much of the field to become unplayably muddy, with sinkholes in a couple spots.
In early 2004 there was a proposal in Richmond to build a new stadium for the R-Braves, but nothing came of it. This was at a time when Major League Baseball was still exploring possible cities to host the yet-to-be-relocated Montreal Expos franchise; Richmond and Norfolk were semi-serious candidates. In February 2005 a revised plan was laid out under which a 7,500-seat ballpark would be the centerpiece of a development program for a run-down area east of the historic Shockoe Bottom district of downtown Richmond. Various such proposals fell through, however. In late 2007 it appeared that the Richmond city government was about to finalize plans to renovate The Diamond and the surrounding neighborhood, but the Atlanta Braves front office lost patience and announced that their AAA affiliate would relocate to Gwinnett, Georgia in the suburbs of Atlanta for the 2009 season. The R-Braves played their final game at The Diamond on September 1, 2008 -- a melancholy occasion. After a year with no minor league baseball in Richmond, a new franchise arrived in 2010: the "Flying Squirrels," the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. As part of the deal, renovations were made to The Diamond, replacing benches with individual seats in most of the lower portion of the upper deck, while the top nine rows were covered with huge canvas sheets serving as advertising banners. This reduced the seating capacity by about 2,500 seats. As for the future, it remains uncertain whether the City of Richmond will provide enough funds to build a new ballpark to replace The Diamond.
Two rising young Atlanta Braves players were on the Richmond Braves' lineup in the game I saw there in September 2000: Mark De Rosa, who played for Atlanta from 1998 to 2004, and Wes Helms (in Atlanta 1998-2002). Other former R-Braves who who got called up to play for Atlanta over the years include Dale Murphy, Chipper Jones, and Marcus Giles.