If there is community support in the Fredericksburg region for a minor league baseball stadium then discussions about locations and how to pay for it will begin, said Bob Hagan, the former president of the Fredericksburg Regiona Chamber of Commerce who has been spearheading the movement for the past year.
Hagan said in an email Wednesday that the first goal is to develop support for the concept. He said minor league baseball stadiums, such as the one in Waldorf, MD, home to the Blue Crabs, holds more than 200 other events besides baseball games. Hagan credits Free Lance-Star editorial page editor Paul Akers for writing eloquent editorials on how having a local minor league baseball team can improve a community and region's economy. Those editorials are attached to this article in a PDF.
"The mission is the benefit to the community and as Paul Akers has presented in the past, the unifying impact of a team that the entire community can support," Hagan said. "Paul Akers inspired the belief that professional baseball can unite a community, serve nonprofits in delivering services and fundraising events, and along the way display some fun, top quality baseball."
Where Would a Stadium Go?
"Even the people who comprise this group are still in flux as we all identify our ability to commit time to making this substantial enterprise happen," Hagan said. "We would be glad to welcome others interested in this effort."
Hagan said the group has purposely avoided discussing possible locations for a minor league stadium because it is too early. He did say a stadium located to this region would most likely be along Interstate 95 and he said there are several solid locations in Stafford County, such as the area of the Centreport exit, multiple spots in Fredericksburg, several spots in Spotsylvania County to include south of the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center and possibly in Caroline County.
"We want to have the conversation about the benefits first," he said. "If we can come together enough to support this effort, it will be followed by a discussion of location," he said. "Public input will also be solicited for a team name and mascot."
He said in a Free Lance-Star live chat in reply to a question about using University of Mary Washington's Dickinson Field as a possible location that everything is on the table but parking would be an issue.
"The model that we are researching includes free parking, and when possible, shared parking lots to reduce impervious surfaces," Hagan said.
Hagan said RBI-VA is working with Opening Day Partners, which has opened more minor league stadiums than any other organization.
"Through the years and different locations, ODP has worked and reworked the model for the games and facilities to make them truly family-friendly, family-affordable (tickets priced at the movie theater level) with play areas, free parking and a strong emphasis on community organization events," Hagan said.
Who Pays For It?
Fredericksburg City Councilman Matt Kelly said paying for a stadium would likely be a regional effort. He said the Waldorf stadium was paid for by Charles County, the state and ODP.
"Some thinking outside the box will be required because VA is not MD," Kelly wrote in a . As noted below more info will be put out for public comment as soon as possible. "This is not just about baseball. The Waldorf, MD stadium, hosts over 200 events a year of which only 70 are baseball games. Right now the question for the region is whether we want to go down this road."
But Hagan said in a Free Lance-Star live chat that the locality-state-private sector approach is not expected to happen for a stadium in this region.
"We would like to use bonds funded by long term commitments for stadium naming rights combined with advertising," he said. "Another source might be the sale of 'stock' to individuals similar to the Green Bay Packers."
The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in Waldorf are playing in the team's fifth year. The team is part of the Atlantic League and although the players can sign with any major league team, Major League Baseball does not own the team or league. The Blue Crabs are owned by ODP and Baltimore Orioles legend Brooks Robinson. Tickets range from $5 to $13 and parking is free for the Blue Crabs.
A stadium in Sugar Land, TX, that opened in April cost $35 million and it is owned by the locality, but it can seat more than 2,000 people compared to the stadium in Waldorf. That cost does not include the land.
Kelly said that RBI-VA isn't likely going to look for a MLB farm team because this area is too close to already established teams, such as in Woodbridge that has a Washington National's farm team, the Potomac Nationals. Right now, the thought is to expand into the Independent League, he said.
Hagan said RBI-VA has the original proposal to Maryland for that facility and have seen that the actual numbers have surpassed the projected numbers in positive ways.
"We want to make all of this information publicly available to enable an informed decision about professional baseball for this area," he said.
Hagan said building a new stadium somewhere in the region would provide construction jobs for up to two years and permanent jobs to manage and operate the stadium afterwards.
Hagan also said on a live Free Lance-Star chat that stadium building brings about 225 full-time temporary jobs for construction.
"Staff are about 25-35 fte and there are 200-300 people working part time," he answered. "Summer jobs for our youth, retired adults and people looking for a second position. Plus a stadium is likely to draw a lot of walking traffic that would support new retail and restaruant business."
A recent survey shows that the demographics of those attending these games are mostly between the ages of 25 and 54 and 68.5 percent are parents. About 83 percent attended games with family members and 80 percent of season ticker holders and corporate sponsors renew.
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