The Montreal Expos are moving to Washington this spring, and Peter Kirk could not be more excited. He hopes Southern Maryland residents will share that feeling.
Kirk, president of Maryland Baseball LLC, has signed an agreement with the Charles County Board of Commissioners to have a minor league team begin playing in a still-to-be-constructed Hughesville stadium as early as 2006.
After the announcement of the Expos' relocation, Kirk said having a major league team near Hughesville will increase the visibility of the game. That awareness, Kirk hopes, will permeate Southern Maryland and trickle down to his club.
"We're ecstatic about this," Kirk said. "Our attendance will go up [from projected figures]. I personally guarantee that."
Kirk said he does not plan to aggressively pursue Washington as the Hughesville team's parent club, adding that though an alliance might produce more interest in his team, the difference would be negligible.
"From our point of view, [the affiliation with the parent club] doesn't make a difference on the financial success of the team," Kirk said. "The publicity of baseball in the area benefits everyone. I know it seems counterintuitive because the wisdom used to be that you must keep farm teams as far away from a major league club as possible."
Kirk said he and the county commissioners will present at an Oct. 12 meeting a detailed rendering of the stadium's design and its updated cost estimates (its initial $15.7 million figure rose to $18 million), unveil a team Web site and start a public campaign to name the team.
Charles County officials are finalizing details with the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative to obtain the land on which to build the stadium.
"There's nothing holding it up," said Aubrey Edwards, executive director of the Charles County Economic Development Commission. "We're working through a series of issues with SMECO that helps them succeed with projects they want. There is no impediment."
Kirk said a meeting with Hughesville residents will be held Oct. 26. He and the commissioners will make a presentation and field questions in a town hall forum.
At a meeting last month at the Hughesville firehouse, Preserve Hughesville, a citizens group of more than 100, voiced complaints to Edwards. The residents are worried about traffic problems brought by the stadium and further development of the area, and they say that the county's $6 million investment would be better spent on new schools.
"The people who live in Hughesville are very apprehensive, and they should be apprehensive," Kirk said. "They should raise questions about traffic, lights and property values. There are some good answers for these questions."