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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.
Baseball partners meet with architectural firm
COMPLETE COVERAGE: View all related stories and images on the Fredericksburg baseball proposal
Two of the principals in the effort to bring the Hagerstown Suns and Diamond Nation to Fredericksburg met Wednesday afternoon with the owner of a New York City-based architectural firm that plays an important role in finalizing the deal.
Jack Cust and Keith Dilgard, respectively founder and president of New Jersey-based Diamond Nation, met with Pei Partnership Architects in the firm’s New York office.
Pei designed the never-built U.S. National Slavery Museum, which was slated to go on a 38-acre parcel overlooking Interstate 95 in Celebrate Virginia South. Pei has a judgment against the slavery museum worth more than $6 million, making the firm easily the museum’s largest creditor.
As such Pei has some control over the outcome of the 38-acre parcel, which the Suns and Diamond Nation want to acquire for their proposed local baseball complex.
The facility would include a 4,750-seat stadium for the Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, and five artificial turf fields where Diamond Nation would run camps and tournaments for amateur softball, baseball and possibly other sports.
Fredericksburg City Council last month approved a deal that would make the Suns and Diamond Nation responsible for about $29 million of the upfront costs of the complex, and lead to the city covering about $7 million for the 1,800-space parking lot.
The city would then return an array of tax revenues generated at the complex to the team; the incentives are estimated to be worth more than $22 million over 20 years. Fredericksburg officials believe the complex would generate about $2 million in new tax revenues for the city annually on top of the incentives.
Probably the biggest potential stumbling block that remains is the land for the complex.
Most of the properties in Celebrate Virginia must pay a special assessment on top of their city real estate taxes that covers the debt service on $25 million worth of bonds sold in 2006 to pay for the infrastructure at the Silver Cos. development. The slavery museum site isn’t part of the Community Development Authority, so there are no special assessments on that land.
Because of that and the land’s prime location, the baseball partners have been focused on obtaining the slavery museum land while continuing to explore other possible sites in the Celebrate Virginia area.
The slavery museum organization owes more than $350,000 in city real estate back taxes, and a tax sale looms. The baseball partners met with Pei on Wednesday to try to negotiate a resolution in advance of a Sept. 25 hearing on the matter in front of area Circuit Court Judge Joseph Ellis.
According to an email from Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn sent after the Wednesday meeting, the Diamond Nation principals agreed to continue talking with Pei and hope for a resolution before the Sept. 25 hearing.
Richmond-area attorney and House of Delegates member Joe Morrissey said the slavery museum organization and its chairman, former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, are willing to negotiate to try to resolve the matter before Sept. 25.
But Morrissey is upset that the slavery museum organization, which he stressed still owns the land, isn’t being included in the negotiations. Morrissey represents the organization, which he said is considering all its options.
City officials have contacted Wilder and his representatives previously. Silver Cos. executive Jud Honaker said he is optimistic that a deal can be worked out.
Honaker said the Celebrate Virginia landowners, which include Silver and other investors, have offered to give a different, smaller parcel at Celebrate Virginia South to the slavery museum if the organization is ready to move forward with plans for the facility.
Meanwhile city staff are continuing to work on the many steps needed before ground is broken on the stadium, for which Rosner Auto Group plans to purchase naming rights. A public hearing on the $7 million parking complex is scheduled Sept. 25 in front of the Fredericksburg Planning Commission.