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Extension needed to buy ballpark land

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Fredericksburg Treasurer Brenda Wood extended the deadline Friday for the investors seeking to buy land for a minor league baseball stadium in the city to finalize the purchase.

Wood said she had been aware for some time that the owners of the Hagerstown Suns and Diamond Nation might need additional time to finish the steps necessary to complete the deal to buy 38 acres where the U.S. National Slavery Museum was to have been built.

The city treasurer has the authority to sell the property at auction because of years of delinquent real estate taxes owed on the land.

Wood said her decision to extend next Wednesday’s auction deadline by 60 days was based on the recognition that it’s in the best interest of all businesses in Central Park and Celebrate Virginia South, not just the investors.

The owners of the Suns and New Jersey-based Diamond Nation plan to build a 5,000-seat stadium in Celebrate Virginia South where former Gov. Doug Wilder had planned to build the slavery museum.

The stadium would be home to the Suns, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. It would also serve as a second site for Diamond Nation, which operates a baseball and softball complex in New Jersey for youth and amateur ball players. A similar complex with turf fields would be built in Fredericksburg and operating through most of the year.

The Suns originally hoped to have a stadium built in Fredericksburg in time for the 2015 season, but that appears impossible.

The team has contracted with the city of Hagerstown, Md., to continue playing there over the next two seasons, if necessary.

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

In March, Wood granted the investors a 90-day extension, giving them until Wednesday to purchase the land.

Keith Dilgard, president of Diamond Nation, informed The Free Lance–Star in an email Wednesday that the investors were seeking a 60-day extension.

Wood granted that request on Friday, giving the group until Aug. 18 to finalize the purchase.

If the investors do not purchase the museum land, the city would sell it to recoup back taxes, interest and penalties.

On Wednesday, Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw and two city council members said a majority on the council supported an extension of the deadline.

Pamela Gould 540/735-1972


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