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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.

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Negotiations continue on slavery museum parcel

COMPLETE COVERAGE: View all related stories and images on the Fredericksburg baseball proposal

Here is a rendering showing the projected layout of the proposed baseball complex on the U.S. National Slavery Museum site at Celebrate Virginia South in Fredericksburg.

Last-minute negotiations regarding the 38 acres owned by the U.S. National Slavery Museum in Celebrate Virginia South continued Tuesday, a day before a key court hearing on the matter.

Representatives for Diamond Nation and the Hagerstown Suns have been speaking with representatives for the slavery museum organization and the architect that designed the never-built museum in Fredericksburg to work out a negotiated purchase of the 38 acres.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled in front of Circuit Judge Joseph Ellis at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Caroline Circuit Court. Ellis could approve a negotiated sale, take steps to move the slavery museum parcel toward a public auction or take other action.

The slavery museum organization, which is spearheaded by former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, owes the city of Fredericksburg about $350,000 in back taxes that are more than two years delinquent. The public auction, if it comes to that, would allow the city to recoup its real estate tax revenues.

New York City-based Pei Partnership Architects, which designed the museum, has a $6 million judgment against the slavery museum organization. That dynamic has led to a three-way negotiation between the baseball investors, Pei and the slavery museum organization.

Meanwhile the baseball investors have continued to explore alternative sites in Celebrate Virginia South should the slavery museum land negotiations prove unsuccessful.

“We’ve been in contact with all the appropriate parties and are working diligently to bring professional baseball to Fredericksburg,” said Diamond Nation President Keith Dilgard in an email.

Diamond Nation wants to build five artificial turf fields and a training center that would be used for amateur baseball and softball tournaments and camps. It would be adjacent to a 4,750-seat stadium that would serve as the new home for the Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Fredericksburg City Council has approved a deal that would allow the Suns and Diamond Nation to receive an array of tax incentives to help cover the debt service on a $29 million, privately financed baseball complex. The city would pay for the adjacent 1,800-space parking lot, whose price tag is estimated at $7 million.

Acquiring the land for the complex is seen as one of the most crucial remaining steps needed to bring the Suns and Diamond Nation to Fredericksburg.