Casey's at bat, this time for the Alexandria Dukes.
Alexandria City Council member Donald Casey, fearful that his city is about to lose its championship Class A baseball team--the only professional baseball team in the Washington area--has proposed building a million-dollar playing field in an attempt to keep the Carolina League team from picking up their bats and balls and playing in somebody else's park.
His suggestion comes after officials in Prince George's, Fairfax and Prince William counties have begun talking about becoming home to the Dukes.
It was about midnight Tuesday and eyelids were drooping at a council meeting when Casey went to bat for the Dukes, suggesting the city move the team from its Four Mile Run Park to a site on West Braddock Road where the city would build new bleachers, lights, fencing and a clubhouse. The cost, he said, would be about $1 million.
And, the Dukes would have a potentially lucrative privilege there that they have sought unsuccessfully for years--the right to sell a beverage many people say they can't watch baseball without, cold beer. Because the Four Mile Park is next to an elementary school, the council has refused to allow beer sales at the park.
Casey's proposal, received skeptically by some other council members, came as the Dukes are seeking a playing field with more seats, more parking and the right to sell beer, all of which could be sources of added revenue for the financially ailing team.
Casey says keeping the team is a question of civic pride.
Four Mile Run Park, in the Arlandria area on the Arlington-Alexandria border, seats 1,800, but the team typically draws only 400 to 600 fans to its games there. The team has showers, lockers and offices in four converted classrooms in the adjacent Cora Kelly Elementary School, leased from an often reluctant Alexandria school system.
Dukes president Gene Thomas accuses the City Council of reneging on a deal to build a new stadium. The city promised a new facility if the Dukes were backed by a major league team, Thomas said. The Dukes later signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who pays the team's salaries and other costs.
Thomas focuses blame on Mayor Charles Beatley. "I hold Beatley solely responsible for the failure . . . to get City Council to move," he said. Beatley says there never was a written agreement to build a stadium, though he said the city might be willing to go 50-50 on the costs of Thomas' project.
Beatley said that the site Casey proposed on the 3800 block of West Braddock Road--next door to the administration building of the team's old opponent, the school system--would cause traffic jams and opposition from influential civic groups in the area.
Thomas said the team continues to pursue alternatives outside Alexandria. One is a new ball complex being developed by Prince William County on Davis Ford Road. Conversations have also begun with Prince George's and Fairfax County officials.