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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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Former Kalahari site now likely home of baseball complex

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

RELATED STORY: City Planning Commission backs city parking lot for stadium

The Hagerstown Suns and Diamond Nation are now targeting land where Kalahari Resorts was once planned in Fredericksburg as the future site of their minor league baseball complex.

The Kalahari site is just north of the Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center. It has Interstate 95 frontage just north of the Virginia Welcome Center.

Diamond Nation President Keith Dilgard said he expects the baseball investors, a group that also includes local businessman Ron Rosner, to soon have a contingent contract to buy the Kalahari parcel from an affiliate of the Silver Cos.

Jud Honaker, president of commercial development for Celebrate Virginia developer the Silver Cos., said the 30-acre Kalahari parcel will be sold to the baseball partners for $1. The partners would then be responsible for the Community Development Authority assessments that come with that land.

The Celebrate Virginia South CDA sold $25 million worth of bonds in 2006 to pay for the development’s infrastructure, and property owners in the development pay a special assessment that goes toward bond payments.

Honaker said his company is selling the land for next to nothing to allow the baseball complex to proceed and hopefully to jump-start the rest of the Celebrate Virginia development.

Dilgard said the baseball partners decided on the Kalahari site after losing patience with efforts to obtain the 38-acre U.S. National Slavery Museum parcel, which is directly north of the Kalahari site.

The partners have been trying to arrange a negotiated sale of the slavery museum site, but at a Wednesday hearing in front of local Circuit Court Judge Joseph Ellis it was revealed that no deal has yet been reached.

Ellis ruled at the Wednesday hearing in Caroline County Circuit Court that a tax sale can proceed on the land owned by the slavery museum, which owes the city about $445,000 including delinquent real estate taxes and attorney fees.

The tax sale could now occur in front of Fredericksburg Circuit Court within 30 days, said John Rife, an attorney representing Fredericksburg. But an appeal of Ellis’ decision and a potential bankruptcy filing by the slavery museum organizationĀ could delay the process. The slavery museum could also stave off the tax sale by paying the city what it is owed anytime before the auction.

Attorneys for the slavery museum and Pei Partnership Architects, which designed the museum and was never paid, said they still expect a settlement to be reached that could lead to the 38 acres being sold to the baseball partners.

Dilgard said his partners are willing to keep talking to Pei and the slavery museum, but said they don’t have time to encounter any additional delays brought on by the dragged-out legal process.

They plan to apply with Major League Baseball by Tuesday to relocate the Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, to Fredericksburg in time for the start of the 2015 season. A 4,750-seat stadium for the Suns and five artificial turf fields for Diamond Nation baseball and softball camps and tournaments are planned.

Dilgard said in many ways the Kalahari site works better for the complex than the slavery museum parcel. They are working with HKS Architects on the site layout.

The cost of the baseball complex is expected to be about $29 million, which will be privately financed but supported by an array of tax incentives that Fredericksburg City Council has approved.

The city will purchase adjacent land from a Silver affiliate and build an 1,800-space parking lot, a project expected to cost about $7 million including land. City Manager Bev Cameron said he doesn’t expect there to be any problems putting the parking complex on a site adjacent to the Kalahari parcel. The land deal between the city and Silver has not been finalized.

Honaker said the parking lot will be in the area where vehicles now park for the Celebrate Virginia Live concert series. He said the Celebrate Virginia landowners plan to repay their more than $1 million in delinquent city real estate taxes at the development with the proceeds of the sale of the land for the parking lot.