WINCHESTER, VA- Officials in Winchester are still denying any negotiations with the Hagerstown Suns, but two city documents confirm that the team is planning to relocate to Winchester.
The Winchester City Council released the agenda for Tuesday's meeting. Attached is a letter of intent from a minor league team, planning to relocate to Winchester. The team's affiliation's are obcscured in 15 different places in the letter, but it appears officials failed to redact one listing in the first paragraph, subsequently revealing Hagerstown Baseball, LLC as the interested club.
The letter, dated January 19, 2012, is addressed to Economic Development Authority Director, Jim Deskins. When asked about the letter, Deskins responded, "I don't know anything about Hagerstown. I don't know anything about that."
The letter of intent states the team entered a lease agreement that has been reviewed and revised based on comments by the Economic Development Authority and city officials. Deskins says all leasing agreements, land conveyence and financing plans must be approved by April 17th to move forward. Officials say they want to move as quickly as possible with the project.
"It would need to be opened by the 2013 season," Deskins says about the stadium.
Winchester Royals President Todd Thompson says the Suns may bring more competition for an audience, but he believes the skill level between the two teams is comparable.
"The level of play that we have, instead of being a lower minor league team, it's the higher end all stars from the college divisions," Thompson says. "So, it's very similar what we bring to the table as far as the game that's being played. We just can't do it as often because these guys have to go back to school," he adds.
Thompson says, in the midst of uncertain plans, The Royals are relieved that Bridgeforth Field will be retained.
According to the agreement, if all terms are met by April 17th, the Hagerstown Suns are obligated to move to Winchester, they otherwise must reimburse the city and the EDA up to 75,000 dollars. The lease would take effect in 2013 and last for 22 seasons.
The Winchester City Council will meet on Tuesday, February 14th to review the land ordinances.