West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck answers some frequently asked questions about the new ballpark planned for Morgantown:
What is a TIF and how does it work?
TIF is an economic development tool that exists in virtually all states in the nation. It is an acronym that stands for "Tax Increment Financing." Basically, there are two types of TIF's-property tax and sales/excise tax. In West Virginia, the property tax TIF statutes are found in Chapter 7, Article 11b, while the sales/excise tax statutes are found in Chapter 7, Article 22. Tax increment financing captures the projected increase in property tax revenue created by developing an area and uses that increase to assist in paying for development and redevelopment projects. This funding makes it possible to go forward with projects that otherwise would not be built.
Who approves a TIF?
A property tax TIF is approved by the respective County Commission. A sales/excise tax TIF must be approved by the State's Office of Economic Development and by the State Legislature. In the case of the Monongalia County sales/excise tax TIF, the Senate and House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly in favor of the TIF. In fact, only two nay votes were recorded between the House and Senate in the entire legislature. Other than those two votes, there was overwhelming support for the Mon County TIF.
Have there been other TIFs established in Monongalia County?
Yes, but only property tax TIFs. The University Town Centre TIF is the first sales/excise tax TIF in Monongalia County. Over the past decade, there have been a number of property tax TIF's approved in Monongalia County. The Monongalia County Commission has approved Project No. 1 in Star City, the Morgantown Industrial Park and Mon General Hospital. The City of Morgantown has approved District No. 1 – Falling Run Development, Riverfront Project No. 1 and District No. 3.
Are there other sales/excise tax TIFs in West Virginia?
Yes, there are two other sales/excise tax TIFs in West Virginia. The first was approved in 2003 and is known as the Cabela's project in Ohio County, and in 2012 a sales/excise tax TIF was approved in Harrison County at the Charles Pointe development.
Where exactly will the ballpark be located?
The new ballpark will be located at University Town Centre and is part of the second phase of development of that complex. It will be located south of Wal-Mart and east of the new ambulatory care center of WVU Hospitals. (see map)
Is a new Interstate-79 interchange being built as well?
Yes, the TIF also will pay for a new interchange on I-79 that will be located between the existing Westover and Star City interchanges. It is anticipated that the interchange will be completed by 2015.
What does design-build mean?
Design-build is an alternative method of delivering a construction project. Traditionally, the owner of a project hires an architect. The architect designs the structure, and then the owner hires a general contractor to build the structure based on the architectural plans. In a design-build process, the owner awards the architectural and the construction project together. This often saves time and money. WVU has decided to make the ballpark a design-build project and will bid it as such.
How many seats will the ballpark have and what other amenities will the ballpark feature?
Officials from West Virginia University, Fairmont State University, Monongalia County and the New York-Penn League are conducting a series of meetings with the criteria developer to determine the specifics of the ballpark. The criteria developer is Brailsford + Dunlavy/Heery and the group was selected in an RFP process by WVU. The intent is to construct a ballpark that meets all the minor league baseball standards and can serve as the home for collegiate and minor league baseball.
Will a minor league team relocate to Morgantown?
The New York-Penn League is the short season Class A league in this region of the country. The New York-Penn League has teams in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont. A number of the New York-Penn League franchises share a ballpark with a collegiate team. Each of the franchises in the New York-Penn League has a major league baseball affiliate. In a letter to WVU Director of Athletics Oliver Luck dated June 14, 2012, Ben Hayes, the President of the New York-Penn League, stated that the league has a "strong interest to relocate a club to Monongalia County." He goes on to state that "any such relocation would be subject to approvals for the relocation from the Presidents of the New York-Penn League and National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues."
What does it mean to be affiliated with Major League Baseball?
There are two categories of minor league baseball teams. The first category is affiliated, which simply means that the minor league team, regardless of the level of competition (A, AA or AAA) has an affiliation with one of the teams in Major League Baseball. The affiliated teams make up the farm system for the major league club. Examples of affiliated franchises in West Virginia include the West Virginia Power in Charleston (full season A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates), the Princeton Rays (rookie affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays) and the Bluefield Blue Jays (rookie affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays). The second category is unaffiliated or independent league teams. These are clubs that do not have a relationship with a major league club. At the present time, the only unaffiliated/independent franchise in West Virginia is the Beckley Miners. When your team has an MLB affiliation, fans could be watching future major league baseball players right there in their city. When a player progresses, fans follow their progression throughout professional baseball, knowing that they once played in their city and now have made the show.
Who will own the stadium?
The legal structure of the stadium will be determined by the collaboration agreement between the city of Granville, Monongalia County, West Virginia University and Mon-View, LLC, the developer of University Town Centre. At this point, we anticipate that WVU will purchase the land upon which the ballpark sits. WVU will then enter into a ground lease agreement with Monongalia County and then in turn the County will enter into a lease-purchase agreement with WVU whereby the real property will be leased back to WVU with specific requirements to construct, operate and manage the ballpark. The lease-purchase agreement will require the County (through the TIF) to pay for all ballpark costs up to $16.2 million. The lease-purchase payment to the County from WVU will be equal to any shortfall in excise tax revenue required for debt service on the County's bonds specifically issued for the ballpark. The ground lease and the lease-purchase agreement will terminate at the earlier of 1) full payment of TIF bonds allocated to the ballpark; or 2) 30 years. The ownership of the ballpark will then transfer automatically to WVU upon termination of the lease.
When will the ballpark be ready to open?
Plans call for the ballpark to open in late 2014/early 2015. A rough timetable of milestones would be:
Criteria developer prepares design-build bid - June 2013
Advertise for design-build contract - June 2013
Award design-build contract - October of 2013
Begin construction - December 2013
Complete construction - December 2014
Will beer be sold at the ballpark?
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