Beach City Council approves changes to pro baseball stadium

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The Virginia Beach Neptunes could throw their first pitch in 2017 after the City Council approved changes Tuesday to plans for the independent league team’s 5,000-seat stadium and adjacent ball fields.

The amendments will lower the project’s costs by shrinking the parking lot, splitting construction into two phases and having the city pay for a pedestrian bridge, according to the ordinance passed by the council. The company behind the project, Virginia Beach Professional Baseball LLC, said the changes are necessary to secure funding, according to the ordinance.

With the updates, ground is scheduled to break in spring near the Sportsplex off Princess Anne Road. Play could begin a year later.

The Neptunes have been conditionally approved to be the next expansion franchise of the independent Atlantic League, according to the team’s website. A 2017 opening day is two years later than the team had originally hoped for. The city signed a lease in 2014 allowing the company to build the ballpark, to be called Wheeler Field.

Now broken into two phases, the project’s first stage will cost about $37 million, down from $40 million. About $5 million has been raised privately, according to Deputy City Manager Cindy Curtis.

The 2017 timeline relies entirely on the company’s “ability to sell the project on the private bond market,” said Curtis. If an optional commercial building is also built, the second phase could raise total costs to about $50 million, Curtis said. Under the changes, the size of that building will decrease from 60,000 square feet to between 20,000 square feet to 40,000 square feet.

The revised plans call for 1,002 parking spaces instead of 1,200. Additionally, the city ordinance says that 10 of the 13 lighted grass diamond fields that are also part of the project will be built in the first phase and open in 2017, with the other three to be built before 2022.

The city will also pay $200,000 for a 400-foot pedestrian bridge connecting the fields, after a dispute with Dominion Power necessitate they be separated, according to the ordinance and Curtis.

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