Baseball Officials Visit Northern Virginia

Baseball Officials Visit Northern Virginia

Financing discussed during meetings with local baseball boosters.

Virginia's baseball boosters hosted a group of officials from Major League Baseball last week to discuss the possibility of moving the Montreal Expos to Northern Virginia next year. The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority laid out its financing plan at last Friday's meeting in an attempt to convince baseball's Relocation Committee that Northern Virginia was the right place for a Major League team.

"We thought it went very well," said Brian Hannigan, a spokesman for the Stadium Authority. "Obviously we wanted to make sure that the Relocation Committee was aware of all the elements of our financing plan that are already in law that can begin to generate revenue to support the ballpark from Day 1.

"They were impressed with the amount of work that was done," Hannigan said.

Northern Virginia is competing with Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore., to become the new home of the Expos. The Relocation Committee will make a recommendation to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who will make the final decision in consultation with the league's owners, said Pat Courtney, a baseball spokesman. Baseball plans to make an announcement during the All-Star break in mid-July, he added. Courtney refused to comment on Friday's meeting.

"This isn't a public process," he said.

Hannigan said the group did not visit any of the potential sites for a ballpark, but the Relocation Committee's staff director has already seen all the sites. Friday's meeting also took place at a Pentagon City high-rise with views of two potential locations. Of the five sites selected for a possible stadium, three are in Arlington County, one is in Loudoun County and one is at Fort Belvoir's Engineer Proving Grounds in Springfield.

Funding for a Virginia ballpark would come from a 10-percent admissions surcharge, sales and income taxes generated at the stadium, as well as rental income from retail space at the ballpark. The state could also tax the salaries of visiting baseball players. Hannigan said no General Fund money would be used for the stadium.

THE FINANCING PLAN and the potential sites have proved controversial with some citizens and elected officials. Last week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) expressing its opposition to a stadium located in Fairfax County.

"The projected economic benefits of a baseball stadium are on a par with the emperor's new clothes," Kauffman said.

Lon Caldwell, a West Springfield resident, cheered the county's resolution. A stadium would aggravate an already bad traffic situation near the Springfield Interchange, he said.

"It's not about whether you like baseball or you're for or against baseball, you're against the idea of putting it where people don't want it," he said. "In my opinion, it would destroy the quality of life in the Springfield area."

Because the Engineer Proving Grounds is federal land owned by the U.S. Army, a baseball stadium could be placed there over the county's objections.

But Hannigan said the stadium proposal would be "processed through the local county government as any other development proposal.

"We have always anticipated that approval of the ballpark would go through the local zoning process."