Plans for building a baseball stadium near Dulles International Airport describe restaurants, shops, hotels, condominiums and offices surrounding a quarry that would be flooded to create a scenic lakeside destination, backers of luring Major League Baseball to Northern Virginia said yesterday.
The large town-center-type development, designed to attract visitors year-round, is intended to help defray the ballpark's construction costs, proponents said.
"It's going to be a beautiful development," said Jerry Burkot, an executive with the investment group that would own the team, adding that backers of the project have been busy educating Major League officials on the financial benefits of the Dulles corridor. "That is the epicenter of the best available market," Burkot said.
The Dulles proposal is the latest incarnation in the years-long quest to bring Major League Baseball back to the Washington area. The effort faces stiff competition and serious obstacles, including strenuous opposition from Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. The District, the Norfolk area, Las Vegas and Monterrey, Mexico, are among those also in the running to be named the new home for the Montreal Expos.
Boosters of Virginia's efforts said locating the stadium near a proposed Metro stop east of the airport would allow the league to tap into some of America's sweetest demographics. The bulk of the development would take place in Loudoun County, deemed by the Census Bureau earlier this year to be the nation's fastest-growing county. The Dulles site is also on the doorstep of affluent Fairfax County, with its million residents.
"All the businesses are moving out there. The families are moving out there," Burkot said, adding that Loudoun has enough land available for the type of large-scale project that would make moving a team attractive. "There's room for that growth and development," he said.
Under the financing plan presented to Major League Baseball, the team owners in Virginia would pay up to one-third of the cost of building the stadium, Burkot said. That amount would take the form of lease payments over the 30-year life of the bonds needed for construction, he said. A group of developers would be responsible for building everything around the ballpark, which would greatly reduce land acquisition and infrastructure costs associated with the stadium, Burkot added.
The other two-thirds of the cost of the stadium would be covered through revenue from the ballpark and related operations, Burkot said.
"If you do not go to the ballpark, it will not cost you a penny. The revenues are entirely self-generating," he said.
Officials with the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority initially estimated the cost of the ballpark project at $400 million. Burkot said the actual cost would be "significantly lower."
Officials in Loudoun County, which would have to approve the ballpark and any other development, said they are generally enthusiastic about the proposal but are eager to see the details.
"I hope the deal's as good for Loudoun as they say it is," said Supervisor Bruce E. Tulloch (R-Potomac), who is taking a leading role in shepherding the proposal. He added that he is "excited we're being considered. . . . I want to see the facts and figures."
Tulloch and Loudoun Board Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large) said they have told stadium proponents that they would not accept any financing arrangement requiring county taxpayers to underwrite costs. "No local taxes would ever go to this project," York said.
York added that he wants to make sure the project is closely tied to future mass transit and that sufficient attention and funding are given to handling the traffic that would result on game days as well as from everyday shoppers. He said officials will seek public input on the proposal.
This is not the first time that Loudoun officials have considered a stadium in the county. County Planning Commission Chair Lawrence S. Beerman II, who served as a county supervisor in the mid- to late 1990s, said officials at that time discussed a proposal for a stadium west of the currently proposed site. He said officials could not find a way to make that earlier effort financially and politically viable. Now, though, things appear to be different, Beerman said.
"My sense of what's being proposed is that it's more of a 365-days-a-year development that has baseball, rather than baseball only, which is just 80 days a year," Beerman said. "If you're not going to go into D.C., why not here? It's an area by the airport. It's got the businesses. It's got the people. It's got the disposable income. Maybe it's time to consider a suburban location."
Representatives from the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority, which receives funding from the prospective team owners, said that Loudoun is not the only site they have presented to Major League officials and that other locations in Northern Virginia are still being considered. Major League officials have the final say.
Burkot, of the owners group, said the Loudoun site tops the list.
The "site at Dulles would be our preference, but the final decision is up to Major League Baseball," Burkot said. "We'll do what they tell us."