Do Not Jeopardize Fredericksburg’s Future Financial Capabilities. Say No to Baseball.

by | Dec 13, 2014 | Government, Opinion

An editorial by Fredericksburg resident Anne Little.

Editor’s Note: Read the comment at the end of the editorial for an opposing viewpoint.

Dear Friends:

Fredericksburg officials have been negotiating on a baseball stadium for over a year.  The final negotiations last year resulted in a package that totaled $28 million dollars in cash, tax breaks and incentives to the Baseball Group (which is comprised of the former Hagerstown Suns and Diamond Nation) from the City.

Now we learn that this is not enough money.  The Baseball Group has come back to the City with a request for an additional 18 million dollars up front to close the deal.  This additional 18 million dollars makes the entire package an astounding $46 million in taxpayer-funded incentives in order to bring baseball to Fredericksburg. That is $1707 for every resident of this city ($6828 for a family of 4).I believe we need to take a hard look at this entire proposal.

Why did this Baseball Group that is supposed to be so professional and business savvy make an $18 million estimate mistake in their calculations? This is a 64 percent cost increase – not a small number.  How could they be so wrong?  More importantly, if they were this wrong in their calculations so far, what hidden problems lie ahead for Fredericksburg if we go through with this deal?

A report generated by Stephen Fuller for the Baseball Group touts the benefits and profits that the City will reap from this venture.  Some of the statistics he presents raise a number of red flags that make the report seem extremely optimistic.

The report states that the 5000 seat stadium will have an average attendance of 4500 attendees for each game. For comparison, the A+ Potomac Nationals in Prince William County (an area with similar horrible traffic and double the population of the Fredericksburg area) averaged only 3500 people per game in 2013. Why does this report assume that Fredericksburg will be 28% more successful – in a smaller market, and with only a class A baseball team?

The report touts huge income for the city for hotel use for the stadium but does not differentiate between hotels in the city and those in surrounding counties.  A simple search of the internet showed that there are 28 hotels offering rooms within 4 miles of Central Park for under $90 for a family of 4.  Of those 28 hotels, 5 are in the City and 23 are within 4 miles of Central Park but located in Stafford and Spotsylvania.  Why should Fredericksburg residents be the only ones providing tax dollars to support a regional economy?

The same can be said with the estimates for increased revenue for meals and retail.  The report does not acknowledge that the Spotsylvania Towne Centre even exists, even though it is only minutes away from Central Park and sure to draw a significant portion of dollars from those visiting the baseball complex.

The report claims that the deal will generate over $1.8 million annually to the City in increased tax revenue.  This does not take into consideration debt servicing on the additional $18 million that the City will have to pay. The debt servicing will wipe out any revenue to the City at all.  In addition, the Baseball Group is also asking for additional concessions from the City, including rebate of the first 100,000 dollars from increased meal and lodging taxes generated citywide.

The City is not being given time for public discussion and debate on this significant deal change. The Baseball Group is asking for an immediate answer from the City.  City Council has been asked to make a decision at the next meeting on Tuesday, August 26th. We spent over 20 years contemplating and discussing whether we should build a courthouse for $30 million. Yet here we are, being stampeded into investing $46 million in a business venture with less than a week to consider all of the ramifications.  Does this make any sense?

Last year we all went to City Council and voiced our opposition to a deal very similar to this current deal.  Now we are back again getting asked to support a larger investment with a huge gamble.

We do not need to jeopardize the City’s future financial capabilities to get a baseball team. If baseball is approved, all other major projects would be put on hold including the riverfront park, school expansion or improvements and infrastructure repairs.  Things that have been on the list to be done for 10 years like Dixon Community Center and the School Board Building will be on hold because our debt will be too much.

I believe it would be a huge mistake to roll the dice on this $46 million project. If you agree, here are the four things you can do to help stop this runaway train:

 Email all the members of City Council this weekend and let them know your opinion.  Contact info is below.  Do not hesitate to email all of them – they all represent you even though they are elected in a specific ward.   You may copy and paste all or part of this email or just simply say, “I oppose investing any more than $28 million in the baseball stadium deal”
Come to the City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 26th at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.  The baseball people will make a presentation and then there will be time for public comments.  I have signed up to speak and will be the first speaker.  I will ask everyone who opposes investing any more than $28 million in this baseball venture to stand.  I will read a basic statement that has some of the points I have made in this letter.  There will be a few other speakers, but we do not need to spend hours listening to speakers all say the same thing in opposition. Of course, you are welcome to speak if you wish.
If you are unable to come to the meeting – send me an email stating your thoughts and opposition or reply to me saying you agree with my position and I will add your name to a petition that I will present to council.
Finally (this is very important) forward this email to all your neighbors and friends – if they oppose this deal, they need to speak up.  Emails in support of the project are coming to council fast and furious.

Thank you
Anne Little

Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw – [email protected]

At Large – Kerry Devine – [email protected]

At Large – Matt Kelly – [email protected]

Ward 1 – Brad Ellis [email protected]

Ward 2 Billy Withers [email protected]

Ward 3 – Tim Duffy [email protected]

Ward 4 Chuck Frye [email protected]

Related Stories:

City Considers Real Estate Tax Exemption for Diamond Nation Stadium Complex

Diamond Nation Asks City for $18 Million More Towards Stadium

Suns Staying Longer in Hagerstown

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Editor’s Note:  Op-Eds are printed as a service to the community and may not necessarily represent the views of Fredericksburg.Today.  Anyone may submit an editorial.  Simply email the content in plain text format to [email protected].  The editor reserves the right to publish or not.

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