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Going, going, gone? Suns owner signed letter of intent to move team to Winchester

February 10, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Baseball LLC, the owner of the Hagerstown Suns minor league baseball team, has signed a letter of intent to move the team to Winchester, Va.

The Winchester City Council’s agenda for Tuesday has scheduled a public hearing on the proposed construction and operations of a minor league baseball stadium at the existing Jim Barnett Park.

Listed as a proposed council agenda item for that meeting is a resolution that has been recommended for approval by James Deskins, Winchester’s economic redevelopment director.

On Friday, Deskins declined to talk about the letter of intent.

“It is what it is,” he said.

That ordinance would authorize the conveyance of city-owned property in the northeast corner of Jim Barnett Park to the Winchester Economic Development Authority for construction of a minor league baseball stadium and supporting facilities.

Also posted on the Winchester website is a copy of a ballpark lease agreement, which states that the lessee will relocate and play its home baseball games in the city beginning with the 2013 season.

Documents on Winchester’s website also provide information about income the proposed stadium could generate, ranging from a conservative estimate of $759,958, to a moderate estimate of $932,554, to an aggressive estimate of $1.060 million.

Those figure include projected revenues from rent, sales and meals tax, admission tax and other taxes.

For example, the moderate estimate lists $623,613 from rent; $158,391 from the sales and meals tax; and $128,006 from the admission tax. An additional $22,544 is listed as coming from other taxes.

The documents also show that annual expenses would amount to $208,750, including utilities, facilities management, service contract and insurance.

 Under the moderate estimate, that would leave a net operating income of $723,804. After subtracting debt service of $900,000, the balance would be a negative $176,196, the documents show.

Under the conservative estimate, the final figure would be a negative $167,298. Under the aggressive estimate, the net after change is listed at $209,709 in the black.

Winchester could rely on its share of the state sales tax to bring its revenue into the black under the moderate and aggressive estimates.

Under the moderate estimate, the documents indidate that after factoring in the share of sales tax, the stadium would be about $50,790 in the black under the moderate estimate.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Friday he has known about the letter of intent since mid-January.

 Bruchey said Hagerstown has been working on a lease agreement with the Suns that is similar to the lease in Winchester. However, Bruchey said he would not release details of the lease because it is a work in progress.

“We haven’t committed to anything at this point,” he said.

The letter of intent between Hagerstown Baseball LLC, dated Jan. 19, 2012, can be found on Winchester’s website at www.winchesterva.gov.

The signature on the letter has been obscured, as has part of the name of the organization providing the letter of intent in all but one instance.

In five instances, the name of the organization is listed as “(redacted) Baseball LLC.” But in one reference — in the first paragraph of the letter — the word “Hagerstown” before “Baseball LLC” was not redacted.

That paragraph reads:

“Please accept this Letter of Intent of (redacted) Baseball LLC to relocate the (redacted) Minor League Baseball Team to a newly constructed Minor League Baseball Stadium in the City of Winchester. In consideration of the EDA and the City of Winchester’s expenditures, mutual promises, and efforts in furtherance of the project, Hagerstown Baseball, LLC agreed to the following:”

The letter goes on to list conditions to be met on or before April 17, including approval of funding by the city of Winchester.

If the conditions are met, the letter reads: “(redacted) Baseball, LLC will promptly execute the Lease Agreement without further revision requested or required, and be bound to performance under its terms.”

 Hagerstown Baseball, LLC, purchased the Suns in September 2010, according to www.milb.com.

The Suns are considering a move to Winchester, according to published reports.

On Jan. 23, the Winchester Economic Development Authority announced that the authority had voted to seek transfer of public land for construction of a new baseball stadium to attract a minor league baseball team. But EDA officials did not name a specific team.

Bruchey said earlier in January that he had been told by Bruce Quinn, the Suns majority owner, that consideration was being given to a move to Winchester. Other local officials said they had been told the same thing.

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