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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.
Conceptual agreement reached between Suns, city negotiation team
COMPLETE COVERAGE: View all related stories and images on the Fredericksburg baseball proposal
The Hagerstown Suns and a negotiation team representing Fredericksburg have agreed to the broad outlines of a deal that could bring the Washington Nationals’ Class A affiliate to the city.
The Suns, city negotiation team and New Jersey-based Diamond Nation released a mutually approved statement Wednesday evening saying that the three entities “have reached agreement on a conceptual deal structure” regarding a financing plan for a complex at Celebrate Virginia South that would include a 5,000-seat stadium and at least five artificial turf fields for baseball and softball amateur camps and tournaments.
The statement came after a day of continued negotiations between the Suns, Diamond Nation and the city. Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron and City Councilman Fred Howe have been leading negotiation efforts for the city.
Howe on Wednesday night said he is now 85 percent sure that a final agreement can be reached. Following a meeting between the team and city on Tuesday, he pegged his confidence level at 75 percent.
The entire Fredericksburg City Council will have ultimate say on whether the proposal passes. Council is scheduled to hold a work session Tuesday evening prior to a regular meeting that could include a vote on the proposal, details of which are still being finalized.
The city of Fredericksburg is expected to release details about the financing proposal Thursday. It includes an array of economic incentives that would allow the Suns and Diamond Nation to receive reimbursements of tax revenues that the complex generates for the city. That would mean the team and Diamond Nation bearing most of the risk and having incentives to perform and recoup more tax revenues.
The agreement that has been reached calls for the team to finance the majority of the upfront costs on a complex estimated to cost $38 million. The city has been asked to pay for the 1,800-space parking lot that could be used by the Suns, Diamond Nation and the city for special events in Celebrate Virginia such as the Marine Corps Historic Half race.
Many matters remain to be settled before the proposed complex can become a reality, including acquiring the land and ironing out a full legal agreement.
The Suns and Diamond Nation are targeting a 38-acre tract in Celebrate Virginia South that was once scheduled to be home to the U.S. National Slavery Museum, which has not been paying its city real estate taxes and faces the imminent prospect of a tax sale on the land. Efforts are under way to reach an agreement that would allow the land to be obtained for the stadium complex.
Additional land, perhaps 15 acres, would be needed for the parking. That land is owned by an affiliate of Celebrate Virginia developer the Silver Cos., which has indicated it is amenable to reaching a deal to sell the required land at a discount to make the complex happen.
Meanwhile Hagerstown officials are trying to reach a last-minute deal to keep the Suns in the Maryland city by building a new downtown stadium for the team, the city’s Herald-Mail daily newspaper reported this week. And a local organization called PlayBallVA is making a pitch for a stadium complex in the Massaponax area of Spotsylvania County.