…Under its current waiver with the league, the P-Nats, a Class A affiliate of the big league Washington Nationals, must leave the 33-year-old Pfitzner Stadium by the end of the 2018 season. Located behind the Prince William County government center on Prince William Parkway, Pfitzner has only metal bleacher seating, with no back rests, and lacks fan amenities and adequate locker room and practice facilities for both the home and visiting teams.Still, Seth Silber said the team would likely get permission to play at Pfitzner one additional season, through 2019, if they have a deal under way with the county for the new stadium proposed at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center. The team will need a solid commitment from the county this summer – preferably by July, Silber said – to make the timeline work…Silber appeared at the meeting with Supervisor Frank Principi and Tom Sebastian, director of development for JBG Companies, which owns the Potomac Town Center. Principi is a supporter of the stadium deal and voted back in April against sending the matter to a ballot referendum. The effort died in a four-to-four tie with Board Chairman Corey Stewart, R-At Large, and Supervisors John Jenkins, De-Neabsco and Marty Nohe, R-Coles, joining Principi in voting against putting the proposal on the ballot while Republican Supervisors Ruth Anderson (Occoquan), Maureen Caddigan (Potomac), Pete Candland (Gainesville) and Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville) voted for it.
The referendum idea was back on the board’s agenda June 21 at Candland’s request. Candland has said he’s not opposed to the new stadium but believes voters should have a say about whether the county finances the facility.
As proposed, the 4,600-seat stadium, which will have a capacity of about 6,000, would be paid for with Industrial Development Authority bonds facilitated by the county. The P-Nats, however, have pledged to pay the $2.7 million in annual debt service and ground rent for the property on which the stadium is built. The team has also agreed to pay all operations and maintenance costs of the stadium.
In effect, the county would own the stadium, but not the land it’s built on because the shopping center would retain ownership of the property. Still, the team and JBG would pay all costs for the stadium except for the $7 million the county has pledged to help with site-development costs.
The county has also informally agreed to cover about $5 million in road improvements associated with the new stadium, Principi said. A traffic impact analysis, also done at county expense, indicates six intersections along Opitz and Potomac Center boulevards would need improvements to handle the extra traffic coming in and out of the new stadium as well as the new parking garage, which has tentatively been slated for state transportation grant money.
Traffic in and around Potomac Town Center, and its proximity to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is frequently mentioned among concerns about the new stadium’s location. The supervisors have yet to discuss specific road improvements in open session, but Principi said the existing intersections are already receiving a “failing” grade. The improvements suggested by the traffic study “will make it so that during games, the traffic is no worse than it is today,” Principi said.
Candland has said his main concern is that neither the P-Nats nor JBG Companies will guarantee the $2.7 million in annual debt service and ground rent will be paid by the team and notes the county will be on the hook for the expenses if the team doesn’t pull in enough revenue to cover the costs.
Responding to those concerns, Silber pointed to an independent economic analysis of the stadium proposal, conducted by Brailsford & Dunlavey, which shows the team will attract enough fans in its new location to cover its expenses, including the $2.7 million in annual rent and mortgage payments. Silber further said the team won’t have to significantly increase ticket prices. Current prices for P-Nats tickets range from $1, on “Dollar Mondays,” to about $15 a ticket.
The same study predicted the new stadium will generate 288 full-time jobs and generate $224 million in wages and $175 million in economic activity over 30 years…
Silber said the team tried for four years to attract private financing for the stadium that was hoped to include a big-dollar naming rights sponsor. Silber said the team hired a top-level sports marketing firm for the effort but came to realize that such sponsors typically can’t be recruited until a stadium financing deal is set, or, as he put it, “until there are shovels in the ground.”
Principi said he, too, shares concerns about the risk to taxpayers and is actively pursuing strategies to mitigate it. The county has already negotiated a special reserve fund, in which the team will keep $2.7 million or a year’s worth of debt service and rent on hand should they not be able to meet the payment.
For his part, Sebastian says JBG is investing its own millions in the stadium, and the necessary road improvements inside the shopping center to accommodate it, mostly because of the boost it will give the town center. Sebastian said the vision is to make the town center “a community destination” that will help attract customers to its stores, restaurants and the new Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, which has announced plans to move into a new building constructed in place of the former Toby Keith’s restaurant.
The stadium will be built along Opitz Boulevard with the home plate aligned with the corner of Opitz and River Rock Way. It will have three levels, including stands that will slope down from the street level entrance. The second level will feature 12 private suites while the third-level deck will feature the restaurant, kids’ playground, standing rails and room for groups as large as 200, Silber said.
In response to questions about why the team can’t build a new stadium where it is now, Silber said current location is too isolated and would not generate enough revenue to pay for the new facility. By contrast, the Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center would be visible and easily accessible from Interstate 95, which is expected to make all the difference.
About the current location, Silber added: “I always say, you couldn’t hide a stadium any better than if you tried.”
Reach Jill Palermo at email@example.com.
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