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Fredericksburg Eager for Ballpark Discussions; Flying Squirrels Monitoring Situation

New Fredericksburg ballpark rendering 2

After unveiling a proposed letter of intent, Fredericksburg, VA officials are eager to continue discussions about a proposed ballpark for the relocating Potomac Nationals (High; Carolina League). Meanwhile, the nearby Richmond Flying Squirrels (Class AA; Eastern League) will monitor Fredericksburg’s actions as they pursue a new Richmond ballpark. 

Earlier this week, it was announced that the P-Nats will pursue a new facility in Fredericksburg. The replacement for Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium in nearby Prince William County would open in 2020, provided that a final agreement is secured.

On July 10, the Fredericksburg City Council is expected to approve a letter of intent with P-Nats owner Art Silber. Under the terms of the proposal, the P-Nats would privately finance the $35 million ballpark with the city contributing to some of the debt service through an annual payment of $1.05 million to the team for 30 years as an anchor tenant. The city’s contribution would be covered by taxes from the ballpark, and revenue generated from use of the facility on non-gamedays. The ballpark would be constructed in Celebrate Virginia South, on land owned by The Silver Cos., which would contribute $100,000 annually to the project.

Approval of the letter of intent will be followed by a 120-review period before a new ballpark can be approved, but Fredericksburg officials are indicating a willingness to continue exploring the project. More from The Free-Lance Star:

“I think this deal looks very promising, but we do have to have a realistic understanding of the cost and everything for the city,” said Councilman Tim Duffy, who represents Ward 3….

“I think it’s promising because it looks like we would be able to make that million payment with proceeds from the project,” Duffy said. “I think it does promise to bring great energy to our tourism efforts, too.

“I do look forward to hearing from the public during in this four-month study period,” he continued, referring to a 120-day study period that would be triggered upon council’s approval of the letter of intent. That vote is scheduled for July 10.

For the Flying Squirrels, a new Frederickburg ballpark and team would represent a club in a modern facility located about 55 miles from Richmond. The Flying Squirrels have wanted to replace The Diamond for years, and are working on their own effort to construct a new ballpark at a nearby site.

Fredericksburg does not fall within the Flying Squirrels’ territorial rights. However, the two cities are within close enough proximity that their teams could draw from the same region and the Fredericksburg market has been a base for group outing sales for the Flying Squirrels. With that, the Flying Squirrels and Eastern League president Joe McEacharn say that they will be keeping an eye on discussions in Fredericksburg as they unfold. More from the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The Squirrels annually draw groups from Fredericksburg, according to Todd Parnell, the team’s vice president and COO. The Squirrels also regularly draw fans from areas north of Richmond and south of Fredericksburg. Minor League Baseball has territorial rules, based primarily on county lines, regulating proximity of franchises. A Fredericksburg franchise would technically not infringe on the Squirrels’ territory.

However, McEacharn said his concern is on behalf of the Eastern League and the Squirrels fans who reside midway between Richmond and Fredericksburg, which are about 55 miles apart on I-95.

“It’s the people that are 25, 30 miles away [from Richmond],” McEacharn said. “If [the relocation to Fredericksburg] were to happen, and we remain in The Diamond — great fan base, great community, and things are working — but we’re holding it together with band-aids. And then somebody at the halfway point says, ‘Geez, I can go up to that new fan-friendly ballpark in Fredericksburg, or I can [attend a game at The Diamond].

“Those are the folks where we could actually have an adverse impact.”

Both teams, it should be noted, have had facilities issues for years. The Diamond originally opened for the Richmond Braves (Class AAA; International League) in 1985, and was home to that franchise until it relocated to Gwinnett County, GA prior to the 2009 season. The Flying Squirrels have played at there since 2010, and have sought a new ballpark for years. The P-Nats, meanwhile, have long sought a replacement for Northwest Federal Field at Pfitzner Stadium. The team was in negotiations last year to build a new ballpark in Prince William County, only for those discussions to stall when the team and county could not come to terms on an agreement.

Rendering courtesy Potomac Nationals.

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