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Fredericksburg, Va., negotiators to have face-to-face discussion with Suns officials next week

July 26, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

A team of Fredericksburg, Va., negotiators is slated to sit down for their first face-to-face discussion with Hagerstown Suns officials next week to begin working on terms of a new proposal that could take the minor league baseball team to Virginia.

“We’re meeting at 5:30 (p.m.) on Tuesday,” said Fredericksburg City Councilman Fred Howe, one of three representatives on the city’s negotiating team.

The other two negotiators are Fredericksburg’s Vice Mayor Brad Ellis and City Manager Beverly Cameron. Howe said the meeting will be in closed session “for obvious reasons.”

“This is the first initial meeting to put all the cards on the table, explore all opportunities for both sides, to do anything in our power to attract the Suns and baseball to Fredericksburg,” Howe said in a telephone interview Friday.

Public support for bringing affiliated professional baseball to Fredericksburg exists, but residents on July 9 expressed concern about publicly financing a multiuse stadium project.

An initial proposal made by Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn pegged a new facility costing about $30 million to be built in the city’s Celebrate Virginia South development.

Through negotiations, Howe said he hopes the city can formulate a deal with the Suns, a low-level Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, that would include private investment to take some of the burden off the Fredericksburg taxpayers.

Howe said times have changed, referring to extensive state and federal budget cuts in recent years. As a result, public financing of professional baseball facilities is no longer a feasible option for municipalities as it was in the past, he said.

“As a businessman, I would love to have the city come build me my building ...  (but) we can’t afford to do that,” he said.

Quinn told a Fredericksburg media outlet that the team is working on a new proposal that would include investments by local business people, contractors and financial experts, as well as “possible future owners and sponsors in the team.”

“This solution is a true public/private partnership including financing,” Quinn was quoted as saying in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star.

Howe said he intends to provide more information to the public as the negotiations progress, and residents will be given additional opportunities to weigh in on what’s being considered.

“We will be seeking input without question from the taxpayers to ensure that we are meeting their concerns and needs at the same time,” Howe said.

Quinn and Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts did not respond to email and phone messages seeking comment on Friday.

Gysberts said recently that he and other city officials have been in contact with Quinn through conference calls.

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