The company that owns the Potomac Nationals minor league baseball team has been granted an extra inning to get all the approvals it needs to build its proposed $35 million, multipurpose stadium in Celebrate Virginia South.
Fredericksburg City Council voted unanimously at a special session this week to extend the company’s 120-day study period. It was scheduled to end Nov. 8, but that date was moved to Nov. 28. The city will finalize votes on several issues needed to clear the way for the stadium and the city’s development and shared use agreement with Potomac Baseball LLC at its Nov. 13 meeting.
“While the Club and City are making substantial progress on their responsibilities under the [letter of intent], they are not in sole control of the process,” Bill Freehling, director of the Fredericksburg Department of Economic Development and Tourism, wrote in a memorandum to City Manager Tim Baroody. “Additional time will permit the transaction to be concluded as smoothly as possible.”
City Council voted 7–0 Tuesday to approve the first of two votes for a special use permit for a stadium in Celebrate Virginia South and to vacate a right-of-way and realign an undeveloped portion of Carl D. Silver Parkway.
The general development plan shows a future extension of the parkway that would extend through the middle of the stadium property. The proposed realignment would instead curve around the stadium to the west, have a double roundabout at the entrance to the Silver Collection at Celebrate, and enable a future intersection with Gordon W. Shelton Boulevard. The amendment calls for the realigned right-of-way to be 80 feet wide and contain a street section including a trail, sidewalk, four travel lanes and a median.
The council also unanimously approved, in the first of two votes, the creation of a new clean energy financing program that will probably be used for the stadium. According to Lani Silber Weiss, Potomac Baseball LLC’s president, the club is interested in using the loan program to finance energy-saving features such as LED lights, but no decisions on which green elements will be included have been made yet.
Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing, or C–PACE as the program is called, would give developers and landlords the opportunity to obtain a bank loan for such things as solar facilities, Energy Star-rated heating and air conditioning systems, LED lights and WaterSense-certified products. It would be secured by a special assessment lien and repaid through special real estate tax assessments.
“The cost would be offset by savings to the borrower’s energy bills,” said Freehling.
Virginia began the process to allow localities to create the programs in 2015. So far, Arlington County is the only Virginia locality that has adopted a C–PACE ordinance. Similar programs are in the works in both Loudoun and Fairfax counties.
The city’s version, if approved Nov. 13, would combine C–PACE loan payments with the city’s real property tax billing and collection. The city treasurer would first deduct any real estate taxes, penalties and interest due, and then remit payments to the lender, minus fees to cover billing and collection costs.
City Attorney Kathleen Dooley said that the program includes a number of protections for the city so it won’t suffer the same fate as it did when it had to put 20 undeveloped parcels in Celebrate Virginia South up for auction May 31 to help pay back more than $23 million in delinquent Fredericksburg taxes and Community Development Authority special tax assessments. She said the special assessment lien would have priority over any other lien on the property other than taxes, and the property can be foreclosed on in a year for delinquency instead of two years as the state allows.
Also on Nov. 13, City Council will vote on a comprehensive plan amendment and special use permit to allow a stadium in Celebrate Virginia South, and the city’s development and shared use agreement with Potomac Baseball.
Changes to the comp plan are needed to reflect the deal being negotiated between the city and Potomac Nationals owner Art Silber and his family. The Silbers plan to finance, build and maintain the stadium, and the city would be considered an “anchor tenant” in exchange for an annual payment to the club of $1.05 million for 30 years.
The city plans to cover its commitment through proceeds generated by the stadium. Freehling said that there will be “three main buckets of revenue,” the first of which is an estimated $700,000 in tax revenue based on the two studies done when the city was mulling a stadium deal with the Hagerstown Suns in 2013.
The second would be the city’s ability to generate revenue through its exclusive use of the stadium for up to 183 days each calendar year for such things as high school, college and amateur athletics, as well as concerts and other major events.
“For the first 10 years we plan, with City Council’s concurrence, to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement with the P–Nats that will allow the team to run all concerts and paid admissions events at the stadium on our behalf. We believe this will generate another $250,000 a year for the city,” Freehling said.
He said that an agreement is also being negotiated with the Celebrate Virginia South’s owners association for a $100,000 annual payment to the city for 30 years in exchange for marketing exposure at the stadium and throughout the city.
More details about both agreements will be provided at the Nov. 13 meeting, Freehling said.
The stadium also has the potential to create additional lodging tax revenue as some people will likely stay at local hotels when they attend games and other events there.
The city’s annual payment also remains the same, while revenue will likely increase with inflation over time, Freehling added. He said that with a 1.5 percent rate of inflation, the deal is projected to be worth $1.6 million to the city by the end of the 30-year agreement.
Dooley said that $1.05 million is expected to cover all the city’s costs, although the city will pay for repairs if the stadium is damaged during a city event.
Dooley said that the stadium is expected to be finished and ready to open April 1.