In many ways, Potomac Nationals owner Art Silber appears to have the patience of Job.
Despite the fact that a new Potomac Nationals stadium at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center was expected to be complete in time for the 2016 season, Silber has retained his optimism.
“Well when I bought the team, I was in my 40s and the stadium was [considered] inadequate then, and now I’m 75, so there you have it,” he said. “It certainly is disappointing we aren’t in a new ballpark.”
When asked if the team had a timetable for breaking ground on the stadium during the Jan. 31 the team’s Hot Stove Banquet at Old Hickory Golf Club, Silber did not mention a specific date, but maintained the club was “hopeful” that construction would begin “within the next six months.”
In the summer of 2012, the Potomac Nationals announced plans to build a new ballpark at Potomac Town Center in a public-private partnership with the state. To support the new stadium and provide additional parking for commuters, the Virginia Department of Transportation pledged $15 million to build a multiple-deck garage next the new ballpark, near Opitz Boulevard.
But nearly four years later, the team is still looking for a naming-rights sponsor to anchor the $30 million stadium – and plans to build the complex have been pushed back year after year.
The latest hitch, Silber said, happened in late December when JBG Companies bought the Stonebridge property. It further delayed the process, but isn’t dimming the team’s hopes for the property to be developed at some future point.
“We are very optimistic at the progress toward the next step of development,” Silber said. “[The change in ownership of the property] obviously halted things for awhile. We are now in the process of talking to the new owners—who we are very impressed with—and we believe we have their commitment to see the project completed.”
While Silber did not divulge a specific date the project would begin, he said the expected completion date would be 2018, which is necessary because the team is currently playing in Pfitzner Stadium as a result of a waiver granted by Major League Baseball which expires that same year.
In the meantime, Silber raved about the support the team has received from Prince William County, which pledged $230,000 in contingency funds last year to make further improvements to the Pfitzner Stadium complex.
“The Board of Supervisors and county staff have done an extraordinary job with making the improvements to the existing facility,” Silber said. “But we have to get into a new ballpark or have one under construction [by 2018], or we’re just not going to be able to continue to play here any longer.”
As far as the team’s future affiliation with the Nationals beyond 2016, neither Silber nor Nationals’ director of player development Mark Scialabba would comment.
Silber said he was duty bound not to comment because of a confidentiality agreement the clubs signed when the Washington Nationals located into “what was technically our territory” 11 years ago. For his part, Scialabba said he does “not comment on club affiliations.”
Silber did say the P-Nats have a “great relationship” with the big league team.
“We are very confident that we will continue to be affiliated with them for many years,” Silber said.
Scialabba said the Washington Nationals do benefit from the proximity of the P-Nats to the major league team.
“It’s certainly a benefit for the major league players to be able to drive [to Potomac on injury rehab assignments] provides comfort. And there is coverage for our team officials to make it down here a lot. It's nice too that it is usually about a 45-minute drive without traffic.”