Stadium funding varies by site
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Fredericksburg is one of at least five Virginia localities where new stadiums for professional baseball are either proposed or are under construction.
Three of the five stadiums—in Loudoun and Prince William counties and Virginia Beach—are proposed as privately financed projects, though there are varying degrees of public-sector participation.
The other two—Fredericksburg and Richmond—are proposed as mostly publicly financed projects with some participation from the private sector.
The Hagerstown Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, have indicated they would move to Fredericksburg if the city builds a stadium estimated to cost $30 million.
The Suns would put up $3 million for the land for the stadium, pay the city $105,000 a year in rent and split the naming-rights revenue as well as a percentage of the profits with the city under the current deal, which could change.
All five of the projects are seen as catalysts that could spawn additional development in the areas around the stadiums. Here is a look at the plans for each:
The Loudoun stadium is the only one of the five where work has begun, and it also might be the only one that is purely a private project. No money is coming from the county, and the land is part of a privately owned development.
The 5,500-seat Loudoun stadium is part of the 358-acre One Loudoun development at the southwest corner of the intersection of State Route 7 and the Loudoun County Parkway in Ashburn.
One Loudoun is a mixed-use town center project that is a partnership between North America Sekisui House and Miller & Smith. In addition to the stadium, plans for One Loudoun call for townhomes and single-family houses, a hotel and conference center, and ample retail and restaurant offerings.
The stadium at One Loudoun will be home to the Loudoun Hounds, an expansion team in the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs, as well as the Virginia Cavalry, a professional team in the North American Soccer League, starting in 2014.
It will be called Edelman Financial Field, after securing a naming-rights deal with the Northern Virginia-based investment advisory firm.
Northern Virginia-based VIP Sports & Entertainment will own the professional teams as well as the stadium, which will also host concerts, festivals and other community events. Bob Farren is president and CEO of VIP Sports.
David D’Onofrio, a spokesman for VIP, didn’t disclose the exact price tag for the stadium but said it is comparable to the $30 million estimate that Fredericksburg is working with.
Earlier this year, a group led by a Florida man in the financial services industry named James “Jas” Short announced that it had been granted conditional approval for an expansion team from the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs. The group wants to bring the team to Virginia Beach.
The group wants to build the 6,000-seat stadium at a cost of $25 million to $35 million on Virginia Beach-owned land near the city’s Sportsplex. The stadium itself would be privately financed.
The group also wants to build seven to 12 baseball fields that would host youth baseball tournaments, according to The Virginian–Pilot.
Virginia Beach spokeswoman Mary Hancock said the city is speaking with the baseball group, but it’s unclear if the stadium will happen. She said the city is not interested in building a publicly financed stadium.
“We’re not in that business right now,” she said.
The Atlantic League, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball, currently includes eight teams and will have nine when the Loudoun Hounds join next year. The league wants additional teams.
One of the teams, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, is in Waldorf, Md. Fredericksburg officials visited that stadium and talked to the team’s owners during the early efforts to bring professional baseball to the city.
The Potomac Nationals, who are also a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, have long played at the G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium off Prince William Parkway. The team now believes the stadium is outdated and is looking to build a new facility.
Last year, P–Nats owner Art Silber presented renderings of a proposed $30 million, 6,000-seat stadium to be built next to Wegmans in the Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center development off Interstate 95.
The stadium would be privately financed, but the deal also calls for a $15 million nearby parking garage paid for by the state. Commuters could use the garage during weekdays, and fans going to the stadium could use it on nights and weekends.
It’s unclear how much progress has been made toward obtaining the financing for the new P–Nats stadium. The project also includes additional office, retail and residential development at the Potomac Town Center development.
The city of Richmond has long been discussing the possibility of building a new, publicly financed stadium.
The Richmond Flying Squirrels, the AA affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, currently play in a stadium called The Diamond on Boulevard.
The Diamond is now almost 30 years old, and there have long been plans to build a new stadium whose price tag has been estimated at $50 million. The Richmond Braves, who were the AAA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves, relocated from The Diamond to Gwinnett County, Ga., after the 2008 season due in large part to an inability to reach an agreement on a new stadium in Richmond. The Squirrels replaced the team for the start of the 2010 season.
Many details of the new stadium have not been worked out, including how it would be financed and where the stadium would go.
The plan that has been discussed involves a publicly financed stadium that would be a regional partnership between the city of Richmond and Chesterfield and Henrico counties.
Most of the conversation regarding the location appears to focus on either the current site of The Diamond or land in Shockoe Bottom.
Richmond’s City Council president wants to put the question of where the ballpark should go to voters this fall, the Richmond Times–Dispatch reported last week.
The Fredericksburg City Council is now evaluating a proposal from the Suns to build a 5,000-seat, city-owned stadium at Celebrate Virginia South that the team would lease for 30 years starting in 2015. A July 9 public hearing is scheduled.
A recent report by Washington-based Brailsford & Dunlavey that was commissioned by Fredericksburg’s Economic Development Authority estimated that the stadium would generate for the city about $672,000 a year in tax revenues and contributions from the Suns after the first few years.
The report also anticipates that the city will have $398,000 in annual expenses from the stadium, including a requirement to provide police and EMS protection, insure the facility and contribute toward capital improvements and maintenance costs.
The resulting estimated surplus, $274,000, would cover only a small part of the anticipated annual debt service of $1.84 million. Fredericksburg is expected to collect $129,000 a year from a special tax “claw back” that allows it to keep a percentage of state sales tax revenue generated at the stadium to help pay off the debt.
To close the remaining gap, a special tax district has also been proposed that would require commercial property owners in Central Park and Celebrate Virginia South to pay an additional annual tax of as much as 32 cents per $100 of assessed real estate value on top of the city’s regular 74-cent tax rate.
Some Central Park and Celebrate Virginia property owners have expressed concern about being required to shoulder such a heavy portion of the debt service. The two largest owners, Rappaport Cos. and Clarion Partners, have declined public comment on the tax district as they discuss the matter with city officials and Celebrate Virginia developer the Silver Cos.
Opponents of the deal have argued for more private investment, saying the city shouldn’t use public resources to primarily benefit the Suns and potentially compete with the businesses that are subsidizing the operation through the new tax district.
A case has also been made that if the stadium can’t generate enough money to cover its costs, it shouldn’t be undertaken. Concerns have also been raised about the potential for noise and traffic.
Proponents have said a multipurpose stadium could hold year-round events that would provide new entertainment options and bring the community together. They have said the stadium would also boost businesses in Central Park, which they believe would offset the increased real estate taxes there.
And they have noted that the Suns expect to create 30 to 50 full-time jobs and additional part-time jobs, spend about $2.5 million a year on business expenses such as marketing and groundskeeping, and generate about 2,000 hotel room nights a year.
Two sites at Celebrate Virginia South have been identified as likely locations for the stadium: the 38 acres where the National Slavery Museum was once proposed and a 22-acre site off Gordon W. Shelton Boulevard where the road currently dead-ends. Both sites are visible from Interstate 95, which could help land a lucrative naming-rights deal.
The Suns continue to talk with Hagerstown, Md., officials about a new stadium deal there as Fredericksburg evaluates the local proposal.
Bill Freehling: 540/374-5424