…Potomac Nationals owner Art Silber declared in June that the minor league baseball team needed a signed contract with the county on a plan to replace the aging Pfitzner Stadium before the end of July, or else he’d be forced to sell the ball club to an out-of-state buyer. The board voted down a chance to send the $35 million stadium to a November ballot referendum largely because of that deadline, and supervisors planned to finalize an agreement on the deal at their July 18 meeting.
But now Silber’s changed his tune, urging supervisors to delay a vote on the deal for a couple weeks to let negotiations continue. “Frankly, there’s no point in even doing the vote, because we don’t have an agreement that we would sign,” Silber said in an interview. “If they vote, they’re going to vote on something that’s completely irrelevant.”
…Under the deal’s original conditions, the county would use its Industrial Development Authority to issue bonds to raise money for the stadium’s construction, then the team would pay the county back for that debt over the course of a 30-year lease.
“The terms of that agreement have got to be fair, and if they’re not, we’re not going to move ahead with the deal and will take advantage of all the options available to us,” Silber said. Those options include “looking at other areas in Northern Virginia like Loudoun or Fairfax,” Silber said, or starting up negotiations with other potential buyers in North Carolina.
Supervisor Frank Principi, D-Woodbridge, said he’s certainly willing to wait a bit, as he feels a July 18 hearing would be “premature.” “The sequencing just seems out of whack, and this deal is not ready for prime time,” Principi said. “There have been material changes to the terms, and that requires changes to multiple contracts and agreements. It’s like the tentacles of an octopus.”
Like Silber, Principi declined to discuss how the deal has evolved or what prompted this hiccup. He acknowledged that the board would not face this conundrum had Silber not issued his July “ultimatum.” But he also stressed that the team has yet to even sign off on some of the deal’s provisions.“There’s still a ways to go here, so I see no gain out of any of this by simply passing on a one-sided draft lease agreement,” Principi said.
At the board’s July 11 meeting, Principi proposed moving the vote to Sept. 5, a date that Silber said would be acceptable to the team. But Principi was the only supervisor to sign off on that change, as his motion failed on a 6-1 vote.
…“Theoretically, if we’re given a compelling reason to defer, we can,” said Supervisor Marty Nohe, R-Coles. “We do it on land use cases all the time if that’s what applicants ask us for.”