By Rick Maese
It’s just a plot of land now, mostly overgrown brush and trees. Nothing resembling a baseball diamond. And with no signage and no visitors, it’s difficult at a glance to understand the community dispute that has sprouted amid the seven acres of weeds and tall grass in Woodbridge.
This could be the future home of the Potomac Nationals, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals whose past rosters briefly included future stars such as Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. And if it isn’t — if Prince William County isn’t ready to help fund construction of a new 6,000-seat stadium — the team’s owner says he will have no choice: He will have to sell the team, and it will relocate elsewhere.
“I have no interest in owning a ballclub in North Carolina or something,” Art Silber said in a recent interview.
Silber is facing a deadline from Minor League Baseball, which has told him the Potomac Nationals’ current stadium, 33-year-old Pfitzner Stadium, is not up to standards and the team must find a new home by 2019. Silber has tried for several years to fund a new stadium for his team, and in March, he and Washington-based developer JBG Companies signed a nonbinding letter of intent with the county to work together on a $35 million stadium, plus an adjacent parking garage on a piece of property JBG owns called Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, just off Interstate 95…
…The proposal is complex and also includes a $34 million commuter parking garage that would need to be covered by state money and $7 million from the county dedicated to site work. Because the county would own the stadium, it could use the facility for other events on days the team isn’t in town. Frank Principi, the county supervisor for Woodbridge, said “the benefit side is much greater than the risk side.”
“There are valid concerns about the risk that taxpayers would be absorbing through the financing deal,” he said. “We’re trying to take this on as a business opportunity, mitigate the risks that all parties have and make it a win-win situation for everybody.”
Principi says he has heard from far more supporters than stadium skeptics but says the dissenters have become louder in recent weeks. While the team runs the informational site KeepPNatsLocal.com, the Koch-funded group launched a website urging voters to voice their opposition to the stadium plan.
The team is hopeful the county will enter into a final stadium agreement next month, that bonds soon can be issued and the stadium will be on schedule to open in 2020 — with a waiver from Minor League Baseball to remain in Pfitzner Stadium one extra season. But the Potomac Nationals need to get through Tuesday’s meeting first and say they can’t afford to wait for a public vote in November…