The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority will propose its stadium plans to Major League Baseball on Friday morning in Arizona, and while the authority has not publicly identified site locations or preferences, a potential owner said the stadium should be built in Pentagon City.
"I wouldn't say that is necessarily my first choice," said William L. Collins III, who has worked to land a baseball team in Northern Virginia for a decade. "But it is obviously the best choice."
The authority probably will recommend five Northern Virginia sites to Major League Baseball as a new home for the Montreal Expos. The District also is attempting to land the team, as is Portland, Ore.
Last month, The Washington Post reported that the Virginia group had four sites in mind: two in Pentagon City, one near Dulles and one in Rosslyn.
Collins said a fifth location, the Fort Belvoir Engineer Proving Ground just off Interstate 95 in Springfield, also is under consideration, adding that Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) "has held that site for us."
From an owner's perspective, Collins said, it makes sense to have enough land for a 15,000-vehicle parking lot, which would bring in additional revenue. The 800-acre Proving Ground site was one of four in the region that Major League Baseball examined in 1995 when it was seeking to expand. Franchises ultimately went to Phoenix and St. Petersburg, Fla.
Despite the greater parking revenue potential at the Proving Ground, Collins said Pentagon City has much to offer. "It would be one of the great sites in all of baseball," he said. "It is already a significant commercial and shopping district. Most of the Washington memorials could be seen from the ballpark, plus it would be a memorial to September 11."
At a Virginians for Baseball Fan Club luncheon last week, Collins and Gabe Paul Jr., executive director of the stadium authority, explained why they have not made their plans public.
"We haven't grandstanded this issue," Collins said. "This decision is going to be made by three owners who are part of the relocation committee, and six members of the commissioner's office, and then the 26 other owners in baseball. That's it. You can hold all these discussions, hold press conferences and have press releases go out daily -- and maybe it will have some effect on those people who will be making the decision. But I don't think so."
Collins, who heads the Virginia Baseball Club which funds the stadium authority, told fans that the two Pentagon City locations are more urban than the District site with the broadest support: New York Avenue at North Capitol Street:
"People keep talking about the District of Columbia being a downtown site. I don't know how many of you have walked on New York and Florida Avenue, but that is not an urban site. . . . That site is the gateway to Baltimore. There's four lights, I think, before you are on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway."
Paul said the Virginia group will make public its site list soon. Impact studies are being done on each location, he said.
"I'm very confident going into the meeting," he said in a phone interview. "I think we have excellent sites, a good financing plan -- with the majority of it already approved by the legislature -- and we have good political support."
The Virginia General Assembly has approved $10.5 million annually to fund an estimated $150 million, 30-year stadium bond. The $10.5 million per year would come from sales and income taxes collected in and around the stadium site as well as a ticket tax. The state still would need to raise $5 million to $8 million annually to fund an additional $90 million bond. That revenue probably would come from taxes on rental cars and hotel rooms.
At Friday's meeting, Paul also will present architect's drawings of a Northern Virginia stadium. He said the authority is considering building a meeting or convention center with the stadium.
Paul was asked at the luncheon to compare Virginia's plan with the D.C. proposal.
"The main difference is the fact that we have this [funding] legislation," he said. "D.C. is holding a lot of press conferences saying what their plans are, but they haven't got anything that has gone before any legislative body. They haven't voted on anything yet."
Paul said the authority will stress the untapped fan base in Northern Virginia and the rest of the state. Economics, he said, will be the most important factor in any relocation decision by major league officials.
The authority, he said, is readying "a very business-oriented proposal . . . that we hope will show them that by locating a club in Northern Virginia, that is going to enhance the team's revenue source. And it is going to be ultimately successful. More successful than any other place in the United States."