Baseball Backers Cite Loudoun Fan Base
Wealth, Growth Would Support Team
By Michael Laris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2004; Page B01
Potential owners of a Northern Virginia baseball team, enthusiastic state and county officials and developers came together near Dulles International Airport yesterday to tout Loudoun County as a perfect site for a major league team.
Gathering at Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology, they brought out blue pennants, spouted demographic data showing the Dulles area's wealth and potential for growth and tossed about baseball metaphors.
Just over a stand of trees is a 450-acre site that would be home to a stadium, a large residential and commercial development and, proponents hope, a flooded quarry to be dubbed Diamond Lake.
"Northern Virginia is major league, in every sense of the word," said William Collins, head of a business group that hopes to own a baseball team in Virginia. He added that if his partners succeed in luring the Montreal Expos to Loudoun, the commonwealth would finally get a team with Virginia in its name.
"It's the return of Major League Baseball to the national capital region. But it's in Virginia. That's where the future is."
Major League Baseball officials had pushed Virginia baseball backers to search for a site in Arlington, which would be closer to the capital region's core, but opposition from local officials blocked those efforts, Collins said. Yesterday marked the public unveiling of the Virginia group's latest bid, and the pitch was clear: The wealthy and fast-growing Dulles area is not a lackluster consolation destination.
"It's not another stadium being dropped into an inner-city site that hopefully, perhaps, maybe will lead to redevelopment nearby. Nor is it in the middle of nowhere, that hopefully, perhaps, maybe will lead to new development," said Laurence E. Bensignor, chairman of Diamond Lake Associates, a partnership of home builders behind plans to develop thousands of homes and 5 million square feet of commercial space and help underwrite stadium construction. "It's where it's at already," Bensignor said.
Loudoun's status as the country's fastest-growing county was promoted yesterday as a key selling point to baseball owners. "It's Major League Baseball's only choice," said Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), vice chairman of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.
And to those who see a Dulles stadium as too long a slog from a more iconic or exciting destination in Washington, Collins responded that they're missing the point.
"The reality is you need to be where the fans are and where the businesses are," Collins said. "It is demographics that have driven this entire proposal to Major League Baseball."
John MacDonald, a 13-year-old Babe Ruth player from the western Loudoun town of Purcellville, enthusiastically donned two Dulles Baseball hats over his team cap. As his uniformed buddies giggled and popped lime green balloons, MacDonald cut to the core of why he'd like to see a hometown team.
"You don't have to drive to Baltimore," MacDonald said. "Instead of having to root for a team out-of-state, you could root for a team in your state."
Just how much a Dulles team would sap revenue from the Baltimore Orioles, a fear of O's owner Peter G. Angelos, remains uncertain.
Organizers handed out maps yesterday showing that an estimated 1.5 million people would live within an hour's drive, at rush hour, of the proposed Loudoun stadium in 2008, when it would open, and the vast majority of them would live in the commonwealth. That analysis came in response to questions from Major League Baseball. Supporters said it should placate Angelos, who has opposed relocating the Expos to the region.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company