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Bill Freehling is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and Fredericksburg.com. This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Bill Freehling.
City staff directed to pursue deal on stadium, baseball team for Fredericksburg
COMPLETE COVERAGE: View all related stories and images on the Fredericksburg baseball proposal
City Council on Tuesday night directed city staff to negotiate the terms of a deal to bring a minor league baseball team and multi-purpose stadium to Fredericksburg.
The directive came during a closed session meeting Tuesday that included Council members and city staff. A public hearing is expected to be scheduled in front of City Council on July 9, offering the public an opportunity to give feedback on the details of the deal.
More details of the terms being discussed between the city and one specific minor league baseball team are expected to be made public before the July 9 hearing.
All signs point to the Hagerstown Suns as the team with whom city officials are speaking. The Suns are a Class-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals that has been looking for a new home and stadium deal.
Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn said last month in an email that he sees a lot of potential for a team in Fredericksburg. Hagerstown officials have expressed concern in media outlets there about the potential of the team moving to Fredericksburg.
Celebrate Virginia South has been identified as the most-likely site for a 5,000-seat stadium that could be used for baseball, concerts, theater, wine tastings and a variety of other community events. The 38-acre parcel that was once intended to be home to the National Slavery Museum is one potential site.
The latest estimated cost of the stadium is $29.5 million, which doesn’t include the price of the land.
Under the terms of the deal being discussed, the team would contribute part of the stadium costs up front. Bonds would be sold, and the debt service would be covered by a variety of sources, to include lease payments made by the team, a profit-sharing arrangement between the city and team on naming rights and other revenues, tax revenues from the stadium, and a special tax district on commercial real estate in Central Park and Celebrate Virginia South.
The deal would set a cap on the city’s annual contributions toward capital improvements and maintenance costs. A separate stadium authority could be established to oversee the facility.
As is the case with many newer minor league baseball stadiums, plans for the local one call for a variety of family-friendly amenities that would attract people to the park both for the action on and off the field. A restaurant at the stadium would offer a variety of arcade and sports-related games and would be open throughout the year. Revenues from that restaurant would be included in the profit-sharing arrangement under the deal being discussed.
Earlier this month, Washington-based firm Brailsford & Dunlavey presented the results of a market analysis it conducted on the prospects of minor league baseball in Fredericksburg. The report, which the city’s Economic Development Authority paid for at a cost of $18,000, concluded that the city would be an “ideal location for minor league baseball.”
The study projected that the Fredericksburg stadium would attract more than 5,000 fans nightly at first, and still more than 4,000 after the novelty wears off by the fifth year. Average attendance for the teams in the South Atlantic League, in which Hagerstown plays, ranged in 2012 from 1,366 (the Hagerstown Suns) to 6,031, with an average of about 3,300.
The stadium could host 25 to 35 revenue-generating events a year in addition to the roughly 65 minor league baseball games, according to the study. Brailsford & Dunlavey’s representatives said stadiums often lead to additional commercial development around the parks and give a boost to local hotels, where teams and fans stay.