Every so often, events converge in a way that creates opportunity.
And it seems to us Prince William County may be on the verge of one of those opportunities.
On one hand, you have the Potomac Nationals, which later this month will play their final game at Pfitzner Stadium, behind the county government center, and head south for Fredericksburg.
At the same time, the Prince William County Fair this week is marking what apparently will be its 70th and final run at the fairgrounds in Manassas.
Legitimate business reasons are driving both moves. The P-Nats, long in need of something resembling an actual “stadium,” got a good deal from the City of Fredericksburg after their efforts to remain in Prince William fell apart. Meanwhile, the fairground’s property is probably (sadly) worth far more to housing developers than to the nonprofit organization that runs the fair.
Yet our community will suffer as a result. Minor-league baseball games and county fairs are the kinds of events that bring people together and give families something to do after work or on weekends without having to drive into Fairfax or D.C. Prince William needs more of these kinds of activities, not fewer.
So here’s an idea … the Prince William Board of County Supervisors is already accepting proposals to redevelop the Pfitzner Stadium property once the P-Nats leave. Why not turn it into a county expo center and fairgrounds?
One thing Prince William lacks is a good venue for large meetings and events. A nice, reasonably priced expo center could house shows and events that would not only attract Prince William residents but also draw visitors from surrounding communities. And for a couple of weeks every summer, it could host the fair, which has long been one of the most successful county fairs in the region.
The P-Nats are gone. There’s nothing we can do to get them back. If we want to see minor-league baseball, starting next year, we’ll have to trek down Interstate 95 to Fredericksburg.
We’d be disappointed to see the county fair leave, too. Where else in the county can our local young farmers show off their prized rabbits and sheep? Where else can you see a demolition derby and a children’s power wheels derby in the same arena? Where else can you eat a greasy turkey leg and cuddle with your significant other high atop a Ferris wheel?
Life in Northern Virginia these days is busy and complicated. For nine days a year, the fair reminds us of a simpler time. We need more of those.
The departure of the P-Nats and the sale of the fairgrounds have created a unique opportunity. Will the county have the vision to take advantage of it? We hope so.