Aging Potomac Nationals’ stadium field to get a makeover

The deteriorating field at Potomac Nationals stadium will get the makeover it needs to meet Minor League Baseball standards, Prince William County officials said.

On Wednesday, the Prince William Park Authority Board approved $150,000 for field improvements. The board’s decision came a day after county supervisors unanimously approved up to $250,000 from the county’s capital reserve fund for field upgrades.

“For several years, we’ve been rated the worst performing field in the league,” team owner Art Silber said. “The situation is serious, because it pertains to the safety of our players.”

The almost 30-year-old Pfitzner Stadium is owned and managed by the county and is home to the Potomac Nationals, the minor league affiliate of the Washington Nationals.

Silber said they have gone through “a number of affiliates” as teams chose not to stay because of the stadium’s quality. This year, Minor League Baseball Director Mark Scialabba sent a letter to Major League Baseball officials that outlined what he called substandard conditions at a stadium that continues to “deteriorate.”

“I was pretty shocked when I got the letter, because I don’t think anyone has ever written a letter like that before,” Silber said in February. “But I think our major league affiliate has really just had it with the quality of the facility.”

Silber said he is looking for a new home for the team along Interstate 95 in Prince William. A proposed new stadium, he said, would be privately funded and take a few years to build.

Although county officials know Silber is searching for a new site, they said it is still critical to upgrade Pfitzner Stadium. It is a county asset, they said, and can be used by other baseball groups in the community.

The funding approved this week will fix the grade of the playing field between second base and the edge of the outfield, which is not in compliance with minor league standards, said Susan Roltsch, deputy county executive.

“The grade has been an issue for some time, but there has been a lot of focus on it this year by major and minor league officials,” she said.

Silber said several games had to be canceled this year because of the field’s poor condition. The Washington Nationals have also questioned whether they want their top prospects playing on the field, he said.

The funding county supervisors approved Tuesday is contingent upon Minor League Baseball officials confirming that the proposed elevation for the field is acceptable to play on through at least 2015, county officials said.

This is the second time this year county officials have plugged additional funds into the stadium. In February, the county approved $70,000 to upgrade the clubhouse. In Scialabba’s letter to major league officials, he said the visiting clubhouse was “unsanitary and extremely small.” He said members from other teams in the Potomac Nationals’ league have complained over the years, and it had become “an embarrassing topic of discussion.”

Silber said that clubhouse upgrades were completed in June.

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