Alexandria would have to spend more than $200,000 in taxpayers' money for construction and personnel costs to attract a minor league Class A baseball team to the city, according to a budget staff report presented to the City Council last night.
Alexandria Mayor Frank E. Mann has received a commitment from the Carolina League to bring a baseball team to the city this spring. Mann says that more than 200 businessmen have volunteered to support the club financially, but he has refused to reveal their names and has also declined to respond to questions about whether he has a financial interest in the team.
The mayor has estimated that a baseball team would generate $250,000 in tax revenues and concessions for the city in its first year of operation. He also has publicly disputed the figures published by the city's Office of Management and Budget on how much the city would have to spend in order to attract such a team to Alexandria.
Mann's estimate is that the city would have to spend $51,200 for construction costs and not the $199,900 estimated by James W. Randall, assistant city manager for management and budget.
"We're not pulling the figures out of a hat," Randall said, in explaining that his estimates were based on the current cost of materials and construction expenses.
The discrepancy between the two estimates is caused mainly because Randall has said the city would have to spend about $120,000 to provide parking facilities for studium customers while Mann said he believes that the empty land in the area can be used for parking without having to make major alterations.
The City Council on Jan. 10 voted 5 to 1 to approve the concept of bringing a Class A baseball team to the city. Since then Mann has energetically presented his proposals Alexandria School Board and to the Lynhaven Citizens Associations, but his reception has been lukewarm at both places. The school board owns the Cora Kelly Elementary School complex, where the minor league team would play. The school has been closed because of flooding problems and the school board must agree to any plan that involves the use of educational facilities.
In one bid to win support for the baseball team's use of the Kelly School, Mann earlier this month told the Lynhaven Citizens Association that he would support the assignment of more police officers to patrol the Lynhaven community as well as money for the school board to reopen Cora Kelly once the flooding problems in the area are solved.
But at least some residents who attended the meeting reacted with skepticism about why the mayor was suddenly eager to spend money for community improvements that the council previously had declined to allocate. One person reportedly asked the mayor if "the only way we can get increased police protection is to have baseball."
Several City Council members have expressed doubts that taxpayers' money should be used to attract a private enterprise to the city, but so far the council seems to be supporting the mayor on the issue. Of the seven council members, only Vice Mayor Nora O. Lamborne, an ardent opponent of spending public money to attract a baseball team, has publicly opposed effort for the team.
"It seems to me as though there will be . . . no announcement as to who the people are who will benefit from our taxpayers' money," Lamborne said, referring to Mann's refusal to disclose the list of potential investors.
Lamborne said Mann had done a good job in selling his concept to the City Council, a fact underscored by council member Beverly Beidler's position. Beidler told a council meeting two weeks ago she felt strongly "that there is no reason for the city of Alexandria to subsidize a private business."