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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.
Meeting between city, Suns called ‘positive’
COMPLETE COVERAGE: View all related stories and images on the Fredericksburg baseball proposal
Fredericksburg City Councilman Fred Howe said he is “75 percent” sure that a deal can be reached that would result in the Hagerstown Suns relocating here.
Howe’s upbeat comments came after what he called a “very, very good meeting” that he and Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron held with Suns officials Tuesday evening that lasted about two hours.
“I continue to be optimistic that we can reach a suitable win-win negotiated deal to get the Hagerstown Suns across home plate and to the city,” Howe said, adding that there are still a few “rough edges to smooth over.”
Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn also called the meeting positive and said he is optimistic that terms can be worked out.
Few details about the latest financial terms were released Tuesday evening, but the city is expected to provide a summary of the proposal in the next couple of days.
City Council could vote on the proposal at its Aug. 27 meeting following a public work session to go over the details.
The Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, want to build a roughly $38 million complex at Celebrate Virginia South that would include a 5,000-seat multi-purpose stadium, at least five artificial turf fields for baseball and softball, and an 1,800-space parking lot.
The Suns would partner with New Jersey-based Diamond Nation, which would run amateur baseball and softball camps and tournaments on the artificial fields.
The Suns have asked the city to pay for the parking, but most of the remaining upfront costs would be privately financed. The city would contribute to the Suns’ annual debt service with an array of economic incentives, the details of which have not been released.
Howe said Tuesday that “revenues that can be attributed to the team’s economic impact” in the city could be used to help pay the Suns’ debt service on the stadium complex.
Diamond Nation and the Suns have estimated that about 837,000 people would visit the complex annually for Suns games, other stadium events and the many camps, leagues and tournaments that Diamond Nation would run.
They have estimated their economic impact on Fredericksburg — including direct and indirect spending — at about $83 million annually and have predicted that the complex would result in about 28,000 hotel-room nights annually, mostly for people in town for Diamond Nation camps and tournaments.
They also believe the complex could help jump-start the Celebrate Virginia development.
The complex could be built on the 38-acre site that was once proposed for the U.S. National Slavery Museum. The city of Fredericksburg has been trying to sell that land because of unpaid real estate taxes. Baseball organizers have met with former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, who has spearheaded the slavery museum, to discuss a negotiated sale of the land.