Just a few weeks ago, the Potomac Nationals seemed destined to flee Prince William County — but the minor league baseball team might yet be able to craft a new stadium deal in the area and avoid the pitfalls of the old arrangement that fell apart in July.
Team owner Art Silber and county supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart said they are working together to find a new site in Prince William as a replacement for the aging Pfitzner Stadium, after they failed to close
a deal to build a $35-million facility near a Woodbridge shopping center.
Crucially, Silber says this new deal would not involve the county issuing any bonds to finance the stadium construction, a feature of the old arrangement
that attracted opposition from half of the county supervisors. Instead, he says, the stadium would be entirely “privately financed.”
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to be able to move ahead successfully on this,” Silber said. “Right now, the opportunities we’re looking at potentially involve commitments on the part of businesses in the area and some other major entities to fund marketing agreements with us to show a substantial amount of cash flow coming in. That could make the deal possible to fund with a commercial bank.”
Silber certainly would have preferred to use the framework of the old deal, where the county would issue Industrial Development Authority bonds to pay for the stadium, as the interest rates would be “so much lower” than the team will pay to any bank. But with Silber eyeing
either a move elsewhere in Northern Virginia or a sale of the team entirely, he said he is willing to make some sacrifices to keep the P-Nats in the county they have called home for more than three decades.
“At the end of the day, it all comes down to money,” said Stewart, a Republican and one of the lead backers of a P-Nats stadium deal in the county. “And if we have a development partner willing to contribute more toward the construction of the stadium, then that would reduce the cost to the county, and that’s an option we’re looking at.”
Silber declined to discuss where in the county the team is examining for a potential new stadium, calling those conversations “confidential.”
The P-Nats have long hoped to build the facility on a property near Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, as the stadium would be adjacent to a bustling group of shops and would even be visible from Interstate 95. The county managed to secure millions in state funds to build a commuter parking garage in the area, which would double as parking for the new stadium.
But Stewart says the two projects are “not necessarily” connected moving forward.
The state transportation grants the county is using to fund the garage come with strict requirements
on where it can be built in order to help commuters most effectively, and its construction is also attached to improvements along Neabsco Mills Road. Accordingly, it will need to stay somewhere in the general area of that road, regardless of where any new stadium is built.
“We may be able to construct a garage unattached to any stadium use, but there aren’t a lot of options on the eastern side of the county,” Stewart said. “There’s not a lot of land left, so it’s difficult to find another piece of property for the garage, but we are looking at other options.”
A deal to bring a new stadium for the Potomac Nationals to Woodbridge may not be dead and buried quite yet, but supporters and detractors alik…
But for all this new optimism about a stadium deal, opponents of the original arrangement are still preparing for life without the P-Nats in Prince William.
Supervisor Pete Candland, R-Gainesville, said he has already heard from an independent league team (not affiliated with Major League Baseball) that might be interested in moving into Pfitzner if the P-Nats leave town. Though Minor League Baseball officials have pressured the P-Nats for years to find a new home due to Pfitzner’s deteriorating conditions, Candland hopes that other, smaller teams might not have such demands about playing there.
“We wouldn’t get some of the same features, like suites and things like that. It would continue to be more of a hometown team,” Candland said. “But we have this asset in Pfitzner, and we need to be looking at what life is going to look like after the Potomac Nationals.”
Candland directed county staff at the board’s Sept. 5 meeting to study the issue in more detail, and he suggested that the county could even accept proposals from any independent league teams interested in the newly vacant stadium (so long as they offer deals more “cost neutral” to the county, of course).
“If we make it public that we’re accepting interest, I foresee a flood of independent teams that would love to come here and do it in a way that’s not such a burden on the citizens,” Candland said.
Stewart said he is skeptical of Candland’s proposal, as he believes Pfitzner is “inadequate and rotting away,” no matter how low a new team’s standards.
“That’s not going to happen,” Stewart said. “If we want to retain professional baseball in the county, we need to build a new stadium. And there’s just no getting around it.”