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Stadium budget stalling process

The people who are trying to bring minor league baseball to Fredericksburg continue to work on the construction budget for a stadium complex in Celebrate Virginia South.

Principals of the Silver Cos., Diamond Nation and the Hagerstown Suns have been working on getting the budget to an affordable level for the past several months.

The Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, plan to build a roughly 5,000-seat stadium in Fredericksburg, and Diamond Nation plans to build adjacent fields for amateur baseball and softball camps and tournaments. The complex will be primarily privately financed but supported by an array of tax incentives.

The baseball investors are under contract to purchase a 38-acre site in Fredericksburg’s Celebrate Virginia South development. The U.S. National Slavery Museum currently owns the land.

Though the site is well-located right along Interstate 95, development costs would be significant due in part to the land’s hilly topography. The Silver Cos., which is developing Celebrate Virginia, is working with the Suns and Diamond Nation to reduce the construction budget to a suitable level.

Silver received some construction price estimates back late this past week, said Jud Honaker, the company’s president of commercial development. He said the project is complicated, and it will likely take a week or so to review all the numbers and determine the best next step.

The Suns had originally been shooting to move to the complex in time for the 2015 season, but that timeline is in jeopardy due to the recent delays. It’s still possible part of the complex could be ready in 2015.

The slavery museum organization has not been paying real estate taxes that are overdue to the city of Fredericksburg, which has begun the process of selling the land to recoup back taxes, interest and penalties.

In October, after the baseball investors signed the contract to buy the land, Fredericksburg’s Treasurer’s Office agreed to pause the tax-sale process for 150 days to give the investors time to further study the site, prepare their construction plans and finalize financing.

Fredericksburg Treasurer Brenda Wood granted the investors a 90-day extension in March, giving them until mid-June to purchase the land.

The Suns have a lease to play in Hagerstown, Md., through the 2014 season. The Suns have been working to extend that lease in Hagerstown through the 2016 season, as required by Minor League Baseball, in case there are construction delays in Fredericksburg.

The uncertain timeline appears to have taken a toll on the Suns’ ability to draw fans this year in Hagerstown. The team was averaging just 526 fans per game as of Saturday, easily the lowest in the South Atlantic League despite the team’s league-best record.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405