0
Votes

Batter Up

Public-Private Partnership could bring indoor baseball to Cabin John Park

Potomac residents may soon be able to practice baseball in the winter, and parks officials say they may be able to build an indoor baseball facility for free.

Montgomery Lane, LLC wants to enter into a partnership with the Montgomery County Park and Planning Department to build a 20,000-square foot, indoor sports complex in Cabin John Park.

“We want to build a facility for public use with private funds,” said Mimi Brodsky Kress, a Montgomery Lane partner. Montgomery Lane gave a presentation at a public hearing about the proposed facility on Jan. 23.

“Over the past several years, there’s been an increasing demand on our ballfields,” said Terry Brooks, special program coordinator at Park & Planning. But “the commission does not have the capital resources or operating resources to develop such a facility,” Brooks said. As a result, the commission decided to issue a request for proposals for an indoor facility. Montgomery Lane was the only company to submit a proposal.

The proposal calls for Montgomery Lane to build the facility at its own expense. Montgomery Lane would then pay the county a base rent plus a percentage of the profits from operating the facility. No one involved in the project was willing to comment on estimated rent payments since the project is still under negotiation. According to Phil Leibovitz, another partner of Montgomery Lane, the property would be deeded back to the Parks Commission in 40 years.

During the period of Montgomery Lane’s lease, they would be paid by Bethesda-Chevy Chase Baseball (BCC) for use of the facility. As a result of their payments, BCC will have certain hours set aside for their use. BCC is a private youth baseball organization with over 4,000 members. They run programs year-round for their members and frequently open their clinics to non-members as well.

“We know we would use it for 25 weeks out of 52, so the rest of year it would be open” said Denise Gorham, Executive Director of BCC. According to Gorham, BCC would use the facility primarily during the winter months. Over those months, BCC would use the facility weekdays from 6 to 9 p.m. and weekends from 1 to 6. “All of the other times we would conduct other clinics and sublet to others,” Gorham said.

County officials want to ensure that the facility will be open to a variety of residents while conceding that Montgomery Lane needs to make its money back.

“We want there to be a large cross-section of economic levels to use a facility on public land,” said Trudye Johnson, Executive Director of the Commission. “Hopefully we can find the balance to make this work.”

BCC also wants to make the project work.

“We’re not in this to make a profit. We’re interested in offering baseball to kids,” Gorham said. BCC would seek to accommodate baseball players from a variety of economic levels. “We always offer scholarships,” Gorham said.

The planned location of the building itself is in Cabin John Park in Potomac near ballfields five and six, displacing existing handball courts, Leibovitz said.

The footprint of the facility would be massive: 100 feet by 200 feet. Leibovitz said he hopes the project would not disturb the nearby area too much. “We’ll have a nice treeline buffer, much of it existing,” Leibovitz said.

The facility is projected to have a 12,000-square foot multi-purpose area with a ceiling high enough to accommodate not only baseball but also other indoor sports such as badminton and volleyball. Montgomery Lane suggested that it might rent the facility for corporate events as well. People wishing to play these or other sports could rent the facility when BCC is not using it.

The other 8,000 square feet would include batting cages, locker rooms and bathrooms among other things.

There is one more public hearing scheduled about the issue. After that hearing, park and planning officials will study the public comments and then make a recommendation to the planning board, At that point the board will decide whether to go ahead with plans for the facility.

Brodsky Kress said that if Montgomery Lane is granted the permit, they could have the facility completed within eight months.

“Hopefully, we’ll have it open sometime before the next winter season,” she said.