Next up: Richmond Coliseum
5/18/2019, 6 a.m.
We are pleased that Richmond City Council swiftly approved its $746 million budget plan for 2019-2020 without further debate, rancor or issues.
Richmonders — and other observers — will see and feel its impact in the coming months. The budget, which goes into effect July 1, offers a 3 percent raise for city employees, $16 million for road and sidewalk repairs, $800,000 for expanded GRTC bus service in South Side and the East End and millions more for Richmond Public Schools’ critical needs.
We applaud City Council for keeping the city’s tax rate at its current level, although we will see modest monthly increases in our city water, sewer and gas bills.
This budget also may give smokers the incentive they need to quit, with a 50 cent-per-pack tax on cigarettes sold in Richmond. By quitting the habit, smokers may save money and their health.
We look now to the next big issue facing Richmond and the City Council — repair or replacement of the Richmond Coliseum.
We hope council members will continue to delve deeply into the issues and financing of the project during their deliberations on this matter, which will change the Downtown landscape and may prove costly and detrimental to the city as a whole.
From the information currently disseminated on the replacement proposal, we believe it would be better to spend $25 to $35 million for a Coliseum facelift than to spend $220 million or more to build a new facility. City Council must think about what would make better sense in the long run for Downtown, the city as a whole and the residents and taxpayers of the city. We dislike that the project, sought by Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. Farrell II and friends, appears aimed at benefiting a few to the detriment of many.
It is clear that city officials turned a blind eye — and closed the city’s wallet — to the needed repairs pointed out by experts in 2008. Is there any wonder why the Coliseum’s interior seems to be run-down 11 years later?
Rather than building from scratch, we believe the city should refurbish the unique structure that graces our city center, so that we can move the Virginia Commonwealth University commencement back to its longtime location and attract the big acts and events that seek such venues.
Our actions, while not hasty, must be swift, before newer venues, such as the Virginia Credit Union LIVE! mid-size, open-air amphitheater at the Richmond Raceway Complex in Henrico County, siphon off all the good shows and the dollars they put into local government coffers other than Richmond.