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Baseball plans move forward

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

UPDATE: Judge orders sale of museum parcel

The Fredericksburg City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a draft performance agreement with the partners hoping to build a 4,750-seat stadium in the city that would be home to a minor league baseball team.

The council also unanimously gave preliminary approval to creating a tourism zone ordinance that would apply to the stadium location.

That ordinance is part of an incentive package negotiated with the partners seeking to build the multipurpose stadium in Celebrate Virginia South. The tourism zone ordinance allows the city to reduce—or waive—both the development fees and the Business, Professional and Occupational License tax charged to the stadium partners.

Final approval on that ordinance won’t be given until the stadium site has been resolved, City Attorney Kathleen Dooley said.

The owner of the Hagerstown Suns is partnering with the principals of New Jersey-based Diamond Nation to build a $29 million stadium.

The goal is to build on the 38 acres where former Gov. Doug Wilder had planned to build the U.S. National Slavery Museum. The stadium partners are in negotiations to buy that land or another parcel in that development. Those efforts could be resolved as early as today.

The Suns ownership originally asked the city to finance the stadium but when city residents overwhelmingly rejected a taxpayer-funded stadium, city officials began negotiating other options to bring the minor league team and a multipurpose stadium to the city.

During that process Diamond Nation came on board. Ron Rosner, founder of Rosner Auto Group, has also become an investor in the stadium. His company is purchasing naming rights for the stadium.

The Hagerstown Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, needed the performance agreement for its relocation application to Major League Baseball, which is due on Tuesday, Dooley said.

The Suns hope to be in the new stadium for the start of the 2015 season.

City Council approved the concept of the stadium proposal on Aug. 27 and since then has been working through other steps needed for final approval.

Tonight, a public hearing will be held before the Planning Commission regarding amending the Comprehensive Plan and the Capital Improvements Plan to accommodate a parking lot the city has agreed to build to serve the stadium.

The 1,800-space lot would be built on property adjoining the stadium. The cost of the land and construction is between $7 million and $8 million. The city and the stadium partners would share the lot’s revenue.

The council will act after hearing the commission’s recommendation.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Fred Howe said he hoped to soon receive a statement from the stadium partners indicating their commitment to go forward with the project.

Diamond Nation operates a baseball and softball complex in New Jersey that hosts youth and amateur camps and tournaments, and plans a similar operation in Fredericksburg.

The stadium complex here would include five artificial turf fields for baseball and softball. It is expected to operate about nine months per year and increase tourism in the city.

The total incentive value of the performance agreement is estimated at $1,322,500 per year over the first 10 years of the project.

City Manager Bev Cameron has said the project could generate $2 million in revenue annually off the stadium site, chiefly from an increase in meals, lodging and sales taxes.

The performance agreement calls for the city to waive the business license tax, return meals and admissions taxes generated at the stadium, and waive the incremental real estate taxes on the site to the stadium partners for the first 20 years.

The city would also return revenues equal to 3.5 percent of the state sales tax generated at the site.

The city also would reimburse the partners for rescue and police service for home games up to $75,000 annually, and purchase $50,000 worth of marketing and advertising from the team for five years.

While the incentives are numerous for the stadium partners, the performance agreement puts the onus on the partners to make the stadium profitable in order for them to pay their $29 million debt.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

COMING UP TODAY

Judge Joseph T. Ellis may rule after an 11 a.m. hearing in Caroline County Circuit Court on whether the land sought for the stadium site—38 acres owned by the U.S. National Slavery Museum—should be auctioned for the museum’s failure to pay its taxes.

The Fredericksburg Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 715 Princess Anne St., on proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Capital Improvements Plan to address an 1,800-space parking lot to serve the stadium. Cost is estimated at $7 million to $8 million.

—Pamela Gould

SPOTSYLVANIA INPUT

The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a resolution expressing concern about traffic from the proposed multipurpose stadium in neighboring Fredericksburg that would be home to a minor league baseball team.

The resolution asked the city of Fredericksburg to consider potential impacts on Spotsylvania “to the greatest extent possible.” The stadium is expected to be built in Celebrate Virginia South, near the Spotsylvania line.

The resolution also asks that the Fredericksburg City Council include Spotsylvania as a “stakeholder” by allowing the supervisors to provide input on any decisions related to the stadium.

Courtland District Supervisor David Ross says he asked county staff to draft the resolution after hearing from concerned constituents who live on Bragg Road and River Road. City Councilman Matt Kelly has said growth in Spotsylvania and Stafford counties is driving traffic problems—not a proposed stadium in Fredericksburg.

—Jeff Branscome

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