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Fredericksburg approves $50K to evaluate baseball here

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The Fredericksburg City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved spending $50,000 to hire experts to evaluate a proposal to bring minor league baseball to the city.

City Manager Bev Cameron requested the money to get the proposal vetted by bond counsel, financial advisers and other consultants.

The Hagerstown Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, are considering relocating from Maryland to Fredericksburg. If a deal can be worked out, the team could play here as soon as the 2015 season.

Part of the proposal would mean building a multipurpose stadium, in all likelihood on a parcel along Interstate 95 in Celebrate Virginia South.

Councilman Matt Kelly made the motion for approval and was the only one to comment before a vote was taken.

Kelly thanked Cameron for putting the item on the agenda so the public could see the expenses of this project, and said he hoped staff would do that for all projects the city considers undertaking.

The city is evaluating whether to build the stadium, and, if so, how to finance it. A public hearing on the proposal is expected at council’s next meeting on July 9. Under the proposal as currently outlined, the stadium would be publicly owned and built by the city issuing as much as $30 million in bonds for construction.

Bruce Quinn, the Suns’ principal owner, and his business partners designed a 5,000-seat stadium for Fredericksburg that would include a restaurant that is open year-round.

The stadium would be used for concerts and other events as well as baseball.

Funding approved by the council on Tuesday comes from the general contingency fund, leaving a balance of $503,095 for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Financial details disclosed thus far suggest the team would pay $3 million to acquire the land for the stadium, but the city would need to finance construction.

The Suns have also provided the city a lease proposal in which they would rent the stadium for 30 years for $105,000 per year. The team also agreed to split its naming rights revenue, estimated at about $200,000 annually, with the city.

The team agreed to split 15 percent of its net profits above $700,000, a deal that could produce $45,000 to $70,000 in annual revenue for the city.

Much of the funding is expected to come from a new tax district covering most of Central Park and Celebrate Virginia.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972