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Fredericksburg council unanimously backs Suns deal

The proposal, a revised version of a concept recently presented by the Suns and a group of partnering investors, will now be sent to team for approval

August 27, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Suns' Tony Renda tags the Shorebirds' Gregory Lorenzo out in this Herald-Mail file photo. Officials in Fredericksburg, Va., are in the process of developing a new proposal that would bring the Hagerstown Suns to town, and "everything is on the table," according to a city councilman there.
Herald-Mail file photo

The Fredericksburg (Va.) City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to endorse a proposal that could bring the Hagerstown Suns to the Virginia city, according to an elected official there.

The proposal — a revised version of a concept recently presented by the Suns and a group of partnering investors — will now be sent to the team for their approval, Fredericksburg City Councilman Fred Howe said.

“I am excited we have made this very important decision” to begin the process of bringing professional baseball to Fredericksburg, Howe wrote in an email late Tuesday night.

“The decision to accept (the deal) is in the team’s court ... then the hard work begins to finance and build,” he wrote. “We hope that, as they say in baseball, if we build it, they will come to Fredericksburg.”

Suns majority owner Bruce Quinn was excited about the vote  when reached for comment Tuesday night.

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“We are extremely excited and look forward to beginning the stadium construction process,” he said in a text message.

However, Howe said earlier Tuesday that no matter what the council’s decision — which turned out to be 7-0 — the deal is far from done, still needing to go through the public hearing process that could take up to two months.

The Suns have partnered with New Jersey-based Diamond Nation to privately finance, build and own a sports entertainment complex that would include a stadium for the minor-league baseball club with at least 4,750 fixed seats.

The facility, estimated by Howe to cost upward of $40 million, also would house at least five artificial turf fields for amateur baseball and softball tournaments to take place in the city’s Celebrate Virginia South development.

As part of the proposal, the city would agree to buy and build an 1,800-space parking lot adjacent to the stadium at a cost of about $7 million, and provide a package of tax incentives and revenue rebates to the group totaling a little more than $22 million over two decades.

In addition to the Suns and Diamond Nation, which currently operates a similar youth sports complex in Flemington, N.J., a Fredericksburg area automotive company announced earlier this week that it planned to invest in the facility and purchase naming rights, according to Howe and media reports.

Howe said the local involvement of Ron Rosner, founder of Rosner Auto Group, along with the Suns and Diamond Nation has been received positively, Howe said.

The group wants to build the stadium complex on 38 acres, which was formerly gifted by landowner and developer Silver Cos. to be used as the site of the U.S. National Slavery Museum.

However, that project has stalled and piled up outstanding tax debts, according to media reports.

Fredericksburg’s Free Lance-Star newspaper on Tuesday reported that Rosner had offered $1.5 million to buy the land once earmarked for the slavery museum.

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