Bid to Build Stadium Is Accepted

The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs are to start playing in their new 4,500-seat stadium in Waldorf next spring. Besides baseball, it is expected to host concerts and business events. (Rendering Courtesy Of Charles County)
By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Charles County commissioners cleared the way yesterday for the region's newest professional baseball team to take the field next spring, voting unanimously to accept a $19 million bid for construction of the home stadium for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.

The stadium, which will be built on the southern edge of Waldorf, carries a total price tag of $25.65 million, more than the county's stated $21 million budget for the project. But county officials said that they need to accommodate the rise in construction costs since that budget was set last year and that they are confident that revenue from the stadium will cover nearly all county expenses.

The 4,500-seat stadium is being billed as a multifunction entertainment complex for concerts, corporate gatherings in skyboxes and other public events, in addition to baseball and other sports.

"Baseball is the anchor of the project, but it offers up a much wider spectrum of opportunities," said Commissioner Gary V. Hodge (D-St. Charles).

Charles County will pay about one-third of the project's costs -- $8.5 million -- with an equal amount coming from the team's owner, Maryland Baseball LLC. The state's share will be about $8.7 million. The General Assembly had committed to paying $7 million, but local officials said they have informed the county's delegation that the project will need more money.

Yesterday's funding vote came a year after commissioners rejected as too expensive the first two construction bids, both from area contractors. The lower of the two proposals was nearly $25 million, which would have brought the total cost of the project to about $32 million, said Melvin C. Beall Jr., the county's acting director of planning and growth management.

Commissioners then hired Skanska Construction, a private global engineering firm, which made design changes that cut costs by about $6 million.

Skanska planners moved half of the 16 luxury boxes from the stadium's second floor to the first, eliminating an elevator and a food preparation area. Other savings came from using less expensive materials and lowering the field elevation, which will reduce the cost of site work.

"Nobody wanted to cheapen it, so they found ways to build things more efficiently using different materials and building techniques," said Peter Kirk, chairman of Maryland Baseball LLC. "They found a way to build the stadium we all want to build."

County officials plan to sign a contract by June 4. Beall said construction will begin late next month or early in July, and the stadium could be completed by the end of the year. The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs will begin competing in the Atlantic League, which has eight other teams in the New England and the mid-Atlantic region, in April.

Staff writer Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company