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Council will close doors to discuss stadium

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Fredericksburg City Council will meet behind closed doors Tuesday night to get an update on negotiations with owners of the Hagerstown Suns about a possible stadium in the city.

Council members Brad Ellis and Fred Howe were appointed July 9 to work with City Manager Bev Cameron to negotiate with the Suns after city residents rejected the idea of a city-financed stadium.

The Suns, the Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, have expressed interest in relocating from Maryland to Fredericksburg but wanted the city to finance a $30 million stadium that would be used for other events, as well as minor league baseball.

Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn met with the city negotiating team July 30 and had been scheduled to meet again on Thursday, but that meeting didn’t take place, Ellis said.

Instead, Cameron said he has been involved in ongoing conversations with team representatives and will continue to do so up until Tuesday’s council meeting.

Cameron said he will present an update on the status of negotiations to the full council during a closed session at the end of Tuesday’s meeting.

The briefing will take place behind closed doors because it will involve discussion of some of the team’s business records, Cameron said.

Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act allows for private discussion of “confidential proprietary records, voluntarily provided by private business pursuant to a promise of confidentiality from a public body” when the information would be used for things such as business or tourism development and when they are records of a business considering locating in Virginia.

Howe said he had expected the council to be briefed behind closed doors and then to present publicly what the city and team had each offered to that point, excluding specific financial information.

He also expected a council vote, consistent with the charge the council gave him and Ellis on July 9.

On Thursday, he said he still hoped it would be possible to provide the public an update during Tuesday’s meeting.

Since the July 30 meeting, the Suns have been working to structure an overall deal that the city can support, said Tom Byrnes, who is working for the team locally as a consultant.

One point that was conveyed to the Suns is that the city doesn’t support public financing of the stadium, Ellis and Howe said.

“There’s a pretty good variance on expectations,” Howe said, “so we’re trying to find a middle ground.”

Councilman Matt Kelly wanted the council to decide on Tuesday to move forward on the proposal or drop it.

But on Thursday, he said he would be satisfied if there had been “significant progress” in deciding whether a viable deal can be reached.

Kelly and Cameron said the council may not act after discussing the project behind closed doors on Tuesday.

But Kelly said the fact that the two sides had a face-to-face meeting about what each side is willing to do and then ongoing conversations is a big step.

He said he thinks there’s time for the team to craft a revised plan with its own financing by the council’s Aug. 27 meeting.

“I would hope that it plays out by the end of the month,” he said.

—Staff reporter Bill Freehling contributed to this report.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972