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EDA: Stadium process may start

By Candace Sipos -- csipos@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- There are a lot of pieces that have to fit together correctly in order for the proposed minor league baseball stadium plans to come together.

But if they do, groundbreaking could start as early as May, Jim Deskins, executive director of the Economic Development Authority, told the second meeting of about a dozen people representing park user groups.

"Our deal is absolutely contingent on being able to provide a stadium for the 2013 season," Deskins said.

The months-long construction period shouldn't put many users out, according to Brad Veach, director of parks and recreation for the city.

"The goal is to be able to keep as much of the activity in the park as we can while construction is going on," Veach said.

Representatives from John Handley High School, Shenandoah University, Winchester Baseball, Winchester BMX and Winchester Royals were all present, and many are still worried about the future of the current fields in Jim Barnett Park, mainly the T-ball and Eagles fields.

"If we can't accommodate the moves and still build the stadium, we can't build the stadium," Deskins said, adding that the $15 million proposed budget for the project will hopefully include the costs of building new fields and a BMX track.

Just like other people at the public forum on Tuesday, some users expressed concern about traffic and parking in the proposed scenario. The idea is to build more than 800 additional parking spaces on about 6 acres, Deskins said.

"If managed properly, I think we may end up with a better situation than we have now," he said, adding that people will have to pay to park, which caused some concern for Jim Phillips with the Winchester Royals board of directors.

"I've been to oodles and oodles of minor league parks, and I have yet to see one that charges for parking," Phillips said.

Veach pointed out that officials have been brainstorming ideas to keep the thousands of game attendees from wandering around the park afterward, such as building a bridge across the ravine to the stadium or permanent fencing.

Ericka Harney, rider and track secretary for Winchester BMX, said her team has been in contact with track builders already. While she is staying realistic that there won't be enough funding to build the dream track, she believes that even having new dirt will be an improvement.

"We're actually very excited to move," she said. "We don't look at this as a negative thing at all."

The team's 2012 season, which runs from April to October, shouldn't be disrupted because the track is sitting where new parking would go, and that piece of construction would be the last, Deskins said.

Deskins and Veach assured those in attendance that a lease with a minor league team would not evict the Royals from the stadium, but the scheduling might be difficult to work out for at least the next season because many teams put together schedules so early, Deskins noted.

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