The Potomac Nationals’ plan to build a $35 million multipurpose stadium in Fredericksburg was a home run for the two residents who spoke in favor of it at City Council’s meeting Tuesday.
Ronald Grandis said it would be a “crown jewel” for the city, and is already planning for his company, Networking PM, to host a Baseball Day. Kevin Brown, wearing a red Washington Nationals cap, said he wants to make bumper stickers and have the Fredericksburg Area Museum give them away.
“This will make history for next 100 years,” he said. “It’s going to be really cool.”
The only group to cry foul was Americans for Prosperity–Virginia, or AFP, which had opposed the P–Nats’ original plan to move to a new stadium in Woodbridge. That effort failed because it hinged on Prince William County issuing bonds and building the new facility.
Jacob Fish, the organization’s coalitions director, warned that professional sports stadiums are not the economic boon that developers promise, and taxpayer dollars would be better spent on such vital services as roads and schools.
“Sadly, turning to taxpayers to fund stadium construction has become the new national pastime for sports team owners,” he said. “But stadium subsidies always have and always will be a swing and a miss. AFP activists already struck out a taxpayer-funded stadium in Prince William County and we are mobilizing to get another out in Fredericksburg.”
City Council, which had struck out the last time it tried to bring a professional baseball team to the city, took another swing anyway, voting unanimously to approve a letter of intent with Potomac Baseball LLC, an affiliate of the P–Nats’ owners. It calls for the affiliate to finance, build and maintain a 5,000-seat stadium on property in Celebrate Virginia South.
No money or bonds would be borrowed from the city, which would be considered an “anchor tenant” of the stadium in exchange for an annual payment to the club of $1.05 million for 30 years.
Having a team’s owners privately finance a stadium is rare, said Bill Freehling, the Fredericksburg Department of Economic Development and Tourism director. He said the city plans to cover its commitment through proceeds generated by the stadium.
These proceeds are estimated to include $700,000 from tax revenue generated by the stadium through property taxes, admissions, sales, meals and business license taxes and $250,000 generated through the use of the stadium on up to 183 non-game days.
These would include the Celebrate Virginia After Hours concert series, which would move to the new stadium. Other potential non-baseball uses include holiday activities such as a skating rink and a holiday lights display as well as food festivals, music festivals, sports tournaments and corporate events.
The projections come from an update of an economic impact report on a possible stadium prepared for the city by consulting firm Brailsford and Dunlavey in 2013, when it was pursuing the Hagerstown Suns. They are based on an average attendance of 4,100 for the baseball games, and do not account for inflation.
Revenue is expected to slightly outpace expenses, which would remain fixed for 30 years, by the second year of the agreement and surpass them by more than $500,000 by year 30.
“In this case, inflation is our friend,” Freehling said.
The Silver Cos., which owns the land where the stadium would be built, will also contribute $100,000 annually to the project, according to the letter of intent.
City Council’s thumbs up triggers a 120-day study period during which the club will plan the stadium, receive approvals from Minor League Baseball and the Carolina League, secure financing and obtain legislative approvals from City Council for such things as land use.
A special-purpose City Council public meeting to hear input on the proposal will also be held.
If a definitive, 30-year agreement is reached, the club would then go through the permitting process, construct the stadium and open it for play—ideally in time for Opening Day in April 2020. The team’s name is yet to be determined, but “Fredericksburg” will be part of it.
Council member Matt Kelly said that the residents have asked why the city is spending money on a stadium when it has other pressing needs, including a new fire station, school and roads.
“All we’re doing is taking money generated by stadium,” he said. “This is not us handing over money. We’re getting use of stadium and advertising. We’re a tourism community, and it will help in that regard.”
He added that it has the potential to attract new business in the surrounding area, which could mean the city won’t have to raise taxes.
Freehling said that the stadium would provide about 200 seasonal and 20 full-time jobs, and the club has committed to working with Fredericksburg City Schools and the University of Mary Washington to recruit its seasonal workforce.