Prince William County and its taxpayers could soon play a pivotal role in keeping the Potomac Nationals in Woodbridge, but some county leaders still view negotiations over a new stadium for the minor league baseball team with great hesitance.
County documents released earlier this month in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by InsideNova show that the Washington Nationals’ Single-A affiliate is hoping the county will fund the construction of a replacement for Pfitzner Stadium by raising $35 million in municipal bonds. The team would then repay the county the roughly $2.7 million debt service costs each year over the 30-year lease, as well as the $450,000 annual rent for the land near Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center.
Under the proposed deal, the county would also have to build a new parking garage near the stadium, which would cost at least $21 million, though officials are hoping to fund that with state grants. Prince William will also need to spend $7 million to prepare the site for construction and could need to fund future transportation improvements in the area, pending a traffic study.
Though the county wouldn’t be on the hook to fund the new facility directly, or provide any sort of tax abatement for team owner Art Silber, the proposed deal still requires the county to effectively take on debt for the project and serve as a “backstop” if the team can’t make its debt service and lease payments.
County Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, said that he originally had hoped to avoid any deal where the county had to back the construction of the stadium with public money. Instead, he was hoping that Silber would be able to realize the goals he laid out when he first announced plans for the new stadium back in 2012, and cover the stadium costs with a combination of money from a naming rights sponsor and private banks.
Yet without those revenue streams, he sees this complicated new proposal as a backup plan for the county.
“We decided we needed to consider plan B,” Principi said. “The Potomac Nationals attempted to get it done through a private bank, or banks, and that didn’t happen. So it’s going to fall on the county, should the county and the public choose to go forward.”
…A report prepared for the board in November by Washington consulting firm Brailsford and Dunleavy Inc. shows that the team is hoping to “open the ballpark for the 2019 MiLB season.”
To meet that timeframe, the project has plenty of hurdles yet to clear. Principi believes the county is still a “long way off” from reaching any final agreement with the team, and even if all sides can reach a deal, the board will need to hold a public hearing on the matter.
Then, the county will need to “conduct a bond validation suit to ensure no one has any problems with the debt and what we’re using it for,” Principi said. The Industrial Development Authority, the government body issuing the bonds, will also hold hearings on the matter…
“It is a very long process, a complicated process, and we’re committed to asking and answering the questions about whether we, as a community, should do this,” Principi said.