The price tag on a baseball complex that includes a new ballpark for the relocating Hagerstown Suns (Low Class A; Sally League) in Fredericksburg, Va., is now $61 million, and the city may look at a special tax district to cover the cost of the project.
Diamond Nation has proposed a complex that includes a new 5,000-seat ballpark for the Suns as well as five youth-baseball fields, clubhouses and other amenities. Diamond Nation officials say they've financed $35 million of that total cost, with the city already contributing $8 million for a parking lot and other infrastructure costs. And even though the city is waiving a long list of other costs -- free rescue and police services, no development/sewer installation fees, sales-tax reimbursements -- there's still a funding gap of some $18 million. The city is bringing back the idea of a special service tax district in the area -- an idea that was widely criticized by local businesses -- to cover that funding gap. The city is armed with a study saying the ballpark will lead to $1.8 million annually in increased tax revenue due to baseball spending (including both pro ball and youth and adult tournaments). From Fredericksburg.com:
[George Mason University economist Stephen] Fuller expects Diamond Nation’s Fredericksburg operation to bring 238,674 players with an average of 1 family members each for a total of 596,685 people from out of town each year.
Based on tourism calculators, he expects those visitors to spend $39.4 million per year, broken down into 63 percent for food and beverages, 25 percent on retail sales and 12 percent on hotel stays....
“The co-location of this sports complex with the commercial services—restaurants, retail and hotels—at Central Park/Celebrate Virginia South and in nearby Fredericksburg will establish a synergistic mix of land uses that will reinforce the economic attractions and market penetration of their component parts,” Fuller states in his report.
This is an interesting business model: since youth tournaments will run before and after the MiLB season, the facility will be used for several months more than a normal ballpark. But whatever the city decides, you can expect a quick decision: the council is expected to take up the matter Aug. 27. A complicating factor: these numbers aren't firm, as Diamond Nation still doesn't have a final ballpark/complex design yet. (In fact, Diamond Nation still hasn't closed on the land acquisition.) So you could expect to see some new numbers floating up in the next week.
The team has a lease at Hagerstown's Municipal Stadium through 2016.
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