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Baseball stadium projects spreading

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Fredericksburg Councilman Matt Kelly said this week’s approval by Loudoun County officials to build a stadium for an independent baseball team poses no obstacle to bringing pro baseball to this region.

Loudoun’s Board of Supervisors on Wednesday endorsed a 5,500-seat stadium in the Ashburn area. That stadium would be home to the Loudoun Hounds baseball team and the Virginia Cavalry soccer team and serve as a venue for other events.

The group proposing the stadium agreed to a long list of proffers, including restrictions on the start times for sporting events and concerts at the venue along heavily traveled State Route 7.

Since 2011, a group in the Fredericksburg region has explored the possibility of bringing a professional baseball team here.

The effort started as the Rappahannock Baseball Initiative, made up of a group of officials from Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford, Spotsylvania and Caroline. RBI has dissolved, but its president, Bob Hagan, said Thursday that a new group is being launched.

Hagan, former president of the Fredericksburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said he and others in the region have formed Play Ball VA! and will make a formal announcement next month.

Whereas RBI had agreed to keep team information confidential, Hagan said the new group wants to openly pursue a baseball team and will be reaching out to the public to gain support and get input for a team name, mascot and logo.

The goal is to find a team interested in relocating to this region or a group wanting to start a new one, he said. He and Kelly said officials with multiple teams have shown interest.

“Several owners have looked at several sites in more than one jurisdiction,” Hagan said. Those sites were along Interstate 95 between Stafford and Caroline counties.

Kelly said he knew of four groups expressing interest, but would not provide specifics. More details may emerge when Fredericksburg’s Economic Development Authority meets on Monday.

The stadium issue is not yet on the agenda, but is expected to be discussed, EDA Vice Chairman Tom Crimmins said.

RBI had been in touch with multiple organizations, including Opening Day Partners, the company that owns the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in Waldorf, Md. The Blue Crabs are part of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs, which is separate from Major League Baseball’s minor-league system.

Kelly and Hagan said Loudoun’s plan doesn’t conflict with one in the Fredericksburg region because, as an independent team, the Loudoun Hounds would not fall under MLB’s rule against putting two minor-league teams in close proximity.

The Hounds, who are expected to begin play in 2014, would have a different fan base than a team in the Fredericksburg region because of the distance between the two jurisdictions.

Kelly said teams generally expect their fan base to come from within a 30-minute drive of the stadium.

Hagan added that an independent league team in the Fredericksburg area could set up a nice rivalry with the teams in Loudoun and Waldorf.

A group in Virginia Beach is also pursuing a team. The Virginian–Pilot reported on Friday that the group is expected to announce on Monday the results of its application to be part of the expansion of the eight-team Atlantic League.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

 

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