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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.
Hagerstown Suns apply to relocate to Fredericksburg
COMPLETE COVERAGE: View all related stories and images on the Fredericksburg baseball proposal
The Hagerstown Suns have formally applied to relocate to Fredericksburg in time for the start of the 2015 Minor League Baseball season.
The Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, submitted their relocation application Tuesday to Minor League Baseball, the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues and South Atlantic League officials.
Baseball officials will formally review the application, said Keith Dilgard, president of the Diamond Nation company that is partnering with the Suns on the proposed complex. He said baseball officials have long been aware of the Suns’ potential move to Fredericksburg and are supportive.
The baseball complex is proposed on about 30 acres where Kalahari Resorts once planned to build a waterpark hotel at Celebrate Virginia South. It’s directly south of the U.S. National Slavery Museum land and north of the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center. It includes Interstate 95 frontage just north of the Virginia Welcome Center.
The baseball partners had once been focused on obtaining the 38-acre slavery museum parcel, but shifted their focus to the Kalahari site after negotiations stalled for the slavery museum land.
An affiliate of the Silver Cos. that owns the Kalahari site agreed to sell the land to the baseball partners for $1, though the Suns and Diamond Nation will have to cover the costs of the Community Development Authority bond assessments that convey with the land.
The city-owned parking lot for the complex at the Kalahari site would be off Gordon W. Shelton Boulevard across from the Seasons at Celebrate Virginia apartments and the current site of the Celebrate Virginia Live concert series. That would serve as the main entrance.
Plans call for a 4,750-seat stadium for the Suns near the parking area. Diamond Nation would also build six fields for amateur baseball and softball camps and tournaments. A roughly 20,000-square-foot indoor baseball training complex would also be built at the site.
An area on the site that once served as a Civil War camp would be left undeveloped.
Dilgard said the baseball investors are now working on engineering and design, and at some point soon they will accept bids from potential general contractors. He said a lot of contractors have expressed interest.
The stadium complex is expected to cost about $29 million to develop. It will be privately financed by the Suns, Diamond Nation and local investor Ron Rosner. An array of city tax incentives that could be worth about $1.3 million a year for 10 years will help cover the debt service, but it will be the team’s responsibility to perform as expected to qualify for those tax reimbursements.
The city of Fredericksburg will pay for land and development costs of the 1,800-space parking lot adjacent to the baseball complex. That’s expected to cost about $7 million.
Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron said the city will finalize the purchase of the land for the parking lot as well as other necessary aspects of the deal after the Suns and Diamond Nation get a little farther down the road on the development process.