0501_POD_Squires

Richmond used to have a basketball team called the Virginia Squires, which was part of the ABA. The Squires were considered a regional team and played home games in both Norfolk and Richmond. These players (from left) competed for roster spots in 1970: Larry Brown, Charlie Scott, Henry Logan, Roland “Fatty” Taylor and Mike Barrett.

Hunden Strategic Partners, the firm hired by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to review a proposed replacement for the Richmond Coliseum, has declared the city one of the nation’s best markets for a pro sports team to locate in.

Hunden released the list on Friday, offering a list of the top markets “ready to host a Major League franchise” — a team from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL or Major League Soccer. The list is unrelated to its role vetting the Coliseum deal.

Austin, Texas, came in at No. 1; with Louisville, Ky., No. 2; and the Hampton Roads area at No. 3. Richmond was fourth.

The Hampton Roads area previously tried to land an NBA team, but was unsuccessful in luring the Sacramento Kings to a proposed Virginia Beach arena.

The Hunden list ranks Richmond as the No. 5 potential market for an NBA team to relocate to, including cities that currently have major league teams. Seattle tops the list and is widely considered a favorite to land a team in the coming years to replace the Seattle SuperSonics, which moved to Oklahoma City.

The proposed deal to replace the Richmond Coliseum does not include any provisions about getting a pro sports team, and such an outcome is considered extremely unlikely.

Depending on the capacity and design of the proposed stadium, it would be eligible for events like the NCAA basketball tournament. It would also be an attractive home for a minor league team. Right now, the Coliseum is home to the Richmond Roughriders. The arena hosted minor league hockey for many years, most recently with the Richmond Renegades.

Richmond’s inclusion on Hunden’s list is based in part on its standing as one of the top sports TV markets in the country. NFL ratings in particular are often among the top 5 in the nation.

The presentation identified Richmond or Hampton Roads as the No. 2 market for a new NFL team, though NFL rules as written would allow the Washington Redskins to block any such relocation or expansion.

While Richmond has hosted several minor league teams over the years, the likelihood of any top-tier team relocating to the city is extremely minimal.

The closest Richmond has come to a pro team is the Virginia Squires of the ABA, a league that was folded into the NBA. The Squires played home games in both Norfolk and Richmond and were considered a regional team. Richmond Raceway hosts NASCAR’s top level of competition, the Monster Energy Cup.

Hunden released the list Friday as part of a “State of the Industry” presentation.

The city retained the Chicago-based firm for $112,000 on June 25 to study the redevelopment plan, according to an agreement the city released to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The firm will analyze the financial underpinnings and potential economic impact of the plan submitted by NH District Corp., a nonprofit group led by Dominion Energy CEO Thomas F. Farrell II.

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mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

Twitter: @michaelpRTD

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