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August 16, 2012 12:10 am



A local group working on bringing professional baseball to the Fredericksburg area is taking a regional approach rather than trying to identify the best individual site for a possible stadium.

Both Bob Hagan, former president of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Fredericksburg City Councilman Matt Kelly say the most important thing at this stage is building regional support for bringing a minor league team to the region. Hagan and Kelly have been actively involved in the volunteer effort through a group called the Rappahannock Baseball Initiative.

Only after there is regional support should a specific stadium location be chosen, Hagan and Kelly say. Hagan hopes that once there is public support, a site will become clear. They've said only that it would likely be along the Interstate 95 corridor between Stafford and Caroline counties.

The vision is for a family-friendly stadium seating about 5,000 people that could house not only baseball games but also year-round events including concerts and various community gatherings. It would target people who live within 30 minutes of the stadium. The stadium and new team could create a few dozen full-time jobs and hundreds of part-time positions.

Hagan said there are several possible spots in the region that could work for a small stadium, including the site of the State Fair of Virginia in Caroline County, land along Centreport Parkway in Stafford County, the area near Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and Celebrate Virginia South in Fredericksburg.

The Silver Cos. is developing Celebrate Virginia South, which is the site of an outdoor concert series called Celebrate Virginia Live that has attracted nationally known musical acts. Celebrate Virginia also includes the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center, which brings many other events to the area, and three hotels. The development is also right in the middle of the region, is directly off Interstate 95 and has ample available open land and developed roads.

Celebrate Virginia also has a Wegmans grocery store, something it shares with the Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center development in Woodbridge. The Potomac Nationals recently chose that development as the site for their new $25 million baseball stadium. The team will pay for the cost of building the stadium on land donated by the developer. That project will also include a 1,000-space parking garage that will be financed by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as new office space and homes, Inside Nova reported.

Jud Honaker, president of commercial development for Silver, believes Celebrate Virginia could be a logical site for the stadium, potentially even on the land where the U.S. National Slavery Museum was going to be built. But he said it will take a lot of public-sector resources to finance such a stadium--whose costs are projected to be similar to those for the one in Woodbridge, not including the land. Individual area localities will need to work together and all contribute, he said.

Kelly pointed out that the state of Virginia recently provided financial assistance to keep the Washington Redskins in Northern Virginia, and to get the team to move its training camp to Richmond. Hence there is precedent for state support of such projects.

Local organizers also plan to solicit financial support from the business community for advertising, naming rights and other revenue generators. It's also possible that stock could be sold to individuals.

Local organizers have visited the Waldorf, Md., stadium that is home to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, and are working with ballpark developer Opening Day Partners. The Blue Crabs are in the independent Atlantic League, which is looking to expand. That team's stadium was paid for by state, local and private funds in roughly equal parts.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405

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