0
Votes

Cannons Aim for Reston Site

Right now Potomac Cannons owner Art Silber does not know what else he can do to try and bring his Minor League Baseball team to Reston.

He's drawn up a plan to build a $300 million, 8,000-seat stadium around the Monroe Street Park and Ride garage and although Reston Association is behind the project, Silber does not see the same level of support from Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

"We could not be more excited about the potentiality of playing ball there," said Silber. "But in order for that to happen we have to have the support of the district supervisor. And apparently we don't have that."

Silber said he presented his plan for the stadium during a brief phone call with Hudgins. She told him she would "think about it," then a subordinate called Silber back and said the supervisor would not be interested in pursuing the idea.

Hudgins said one problem she had with Silber's plan was that it would require amendments to the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan at a spot where amendments to the plan were just recently made. Last May the Board of Supervisors approved an out of turn plan amendment to raise density allotments along the future rail-to-Dulles line. The Monroe Street Park and Ride, near the proposed Herndon-Monroe Street Station, was one place where increased densities were recommended. Hudgins said she would feel uncomfortable supporting another density change after the community had worked so hard on the original amendment.

"Out of turn plan amendments are not taken lightly," Hudgins said.

<mh>Community Interest?

<bt>Hudgins said another reservation she has about the project is that she hasn't seen a significant ground swell of community support for minor league baseball in Reston.

"Is this what the community is interested in? Right now I don't hear it," Hudgins said.

She said that if more community members come out in favor of the stadium, she might give the proposal more serious consideration. But Silber said he does not plan on trying to generate interest in the park.

"If people feel they want it they need to deal with Hudgins," said Silber. "We're not going to be putting on a public relations campaign."

Silber did say, though, that he believed "the whole county, Reston and Northern Virginia would like to have baseball."

Silber said his team's current ballpark, in Prince William County, is too small and too far south to accommodate the team's fans. He said over 60 percent of the fans come from Fairfax County and that the stadium only seats 5,000. The planned stadium would seat 3,000 more people and would have 16 sky boxes.

The Cannons are in the last year of their contract as a farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals. Silber said the Cannons need to show some financial promise by the end of the year. Approval for a new stadium would help their cause.

"We have a good chance of losing the Cardinals," Silber said.

Seven months ago the owner tried, and failed, to amend the comprehensive plan and build a stadium in Merrifield. The Reston Association has been working with Silber on bringing the stadium to Reston.

Glenn Downing, Reston Association president, did not want to reveal too much about the association's involvement. He did say, though, that there is "still a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of [Silber] to bring his ball team to Reston."

Hudgins said she was "startled" when Silber came to her with the Reston plan.

"[The Merrifield proposal] went through a two-year process with the citizens," Hudgins said. "[The Cannons] have an idea that I can be approached to put a stadium here without an equal amount of consideration by the community."

<mh>Site Plans

<bt>Silber said there are other sites in Fairfax County where he is also considering building a stadium. But, he said, the other alternatives are "not as good" as the Reston site. Situated near the future rail stop and the Dulles Toll Road, Silber said the planned stadium would be accessible to people in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties.

He plans to build a mix of residential, commercial and retail units surrounding the ballpark. Residential towers would reach six or seven stories above the ballpark.

"Part of the ballpark structure itself would be condo units," Silber said.

And with revenues from this real estate development, Silber said the team would be able to pay for the entire baseball facility. "Any other ballpark in the United States has been paid for by taxpayers," Silber said. "At this site we would pay for it by ourselves."

Silber dismissed the idea that a minor league stadium might lessen Northern Virginia's chances for a major league team.

"A ballpark that is going to hold 8,000 people wouldn't take anything away from a 50,000 person stadium," he said. "And they're two different markets. Our fans, many can't afford to go to [the] majors. The average price for a family of four to go to a major league game is $125 to $150."

Potomac Cannons ticket prices range from $5 to $10 each