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Diamond Nation Asks City for $18 Million More Towards Stadium

By Susan Larson

Diamond Nation is asking the City of Fredericksburg to contribute $18 million more towards building a stadium complex to host the Hagerstown Suns and provide space for amateur baseball and softball camps and tournaments.

The total cost of the project originally had been estimated at about $25 – $30 million.

City Manager Bev Cameron made the announcement in an update to City Council during their August 12 meeting.

“The team has done extensive work with architects and construction advisers, and they have determined that they have a very sizable budget problem,” Cameron said.  The funding shortfall is estimated to be $18 million.

“Much of this shortfall is attributed to the very high costs of site development related to work on the topographically challenged National Slavery Museum property,” Cameron said.  “Diamond Nation has indicated to the city that they are not willing to proceed with the project unless this funding shortfall can be eliminated.”

New Jersey-based Diamond Nation and Suns’ owners have been working since September 2013 to purchase the 38-acre parcel of land in Celebrate Virginia South which was once to be used for a National Slavery Museum.  They have not yet acquired the land, although they obtained the purchase option last fall.

“It has been suggested that the city step forward and provide an additional $18 million for the project,” Cameron said.  “The city agreed last year to provide $8 million for a parking facility and to return all marginal tax revenues generated by the project, which had a preliminary value estimated to be $23 million over 20 years.

“Further, it has been suggested that this additional $18 million grant to the team would be derived from city issued bonds, which would be supported by a special service tax district, and the special service tax district would presumably be comprised of all the taxable properties in Celebrate Virginia South and Central Park.”

A special service tax district levy in the amount of about .20 cents per $100 would be required to support the approximate amount of $18 million, Cameron said.  And the levy would be in addition to the city’s general real estate tax, which is now .79 cents per $100.

The team recently commissioned an economic impact study, prepared by Dr. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University.  “The report concluded that the project did generate substantial economic and revenue benefits for the city and for the core businesses in the city and the area around the stadium,” Cameron said.

City Council plans to meet with city staff during the coming week to discuss all options, and then meet with Diamond Nation. City Council will present a plan at their August 26 meeting.

Related Story:
Suns Staying Longer in Hagerstown
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