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City prepares process for baseball stadium

COMPLETE COVERAGE: View all related stories and images on the Fredericksburg baseball proposal

Fredericksburg City Council could vote Tuesday to move forward on a proposal to build a multipurpose stadium that would be home to the Hagerstown Suns.

However, even if the council does that, it won’t mean the project has final approval, City Manager Bev Cameron said Thursday.

Several steps need to be taken before the deal would be finalized and that could take between 45 and 60 days. During that process, the public will have opportunities to provide input.

Comments from city residents at a July 9 public hearing resulted in appointment of a city negotiating team composed of Cameron and council members Fred Howe and Brad Ellis. They have been working with representatives of the Suns since then to craft a proposal that Cameron released on Thursday evening.

The Suns’ owners are interested in relocating their minor league team from Maryland to the city. Their original proposal asked the city to build a publicly funded, 5,000-seat multipurpose stadium with an estimated price tag of $30 million.

City residents who spoke at a public hearing rejected that idea.

Negotiations over the past few weeks resulted in a deal that “delivers an exciting baseball and economic development opportunity for the city” while putting the burden of risk on the side of the baseball partners, Cameron said in a memo to Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and all of City Council on Thursday.

He expressed support for the proposed incentive package the city is offering and the private partnership that will now fund most of the stadium deal.

Under the negotiated proposal, the Suns and New Jersey-based partner Diamond Nation will be responsible for $29 million in financing. The city’s financial risk is limited to $7 million, the cost of a parking facility at the stadium.

On Tuesday, the council is scheduled to hold a work session to discuss the proposal.

Council could vote at its regular meeting on moving ahead with the project as crafted by the negotiators.

As outlined in a draft resolution released on Thursday, the project would begin wending its way through the government approval process, which involves financing and other matters.

Steps in the process would include:

Submitting the proposal to the Economic Development Authority for analysis and input.

Amending the Comprehensive Plan to provide for construction of an 1,800-space parking lot for the stadium in Celebrate Virginia South and amending the Capital Improvements Plan for a $7 million expenditure to pay for it. Both amendments would go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing and recommendation.

Cameron and City Attorney Kathleen Dooley would work with bond counsel and financial advisors to develop a proposal for the public financing of the parking lot.

Cameron would prepare an amendment to the city’s tourism plan so the stadium complex could qualify under a Virginia law that allows tourism-related projects to receive a portion of state sales tax revenues back.

Dooley would need to draft four ordinances, two of which would require a public hearing. One ordinance would be for the sales tax entitlement, another to increase the city’s admissions tax rate from 6 percent to 7 percent, another for tax increment financing and the last one to create a tourism zone.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972