Stadium opponents are adamant: Project costs are rising, taxpayer money should pay for new schools or better roads and not professional sports, baseball's good but the location's bad.
Sound familiar? In Hughesville, it does.
While politicians and community groups argue over proposals to build a major league baseball stadium in the District, a battle over a minor league ballpark is underway 35 miles to the south in Hughesville, a former railroad stop with about 1,500 residents.
Unlike in the District, where the mayor is scrambling to secure city council backing, Charles County officials have been solidly in favor of plans to build a 4,500-seat ballpark and lure a minor league team to Hughesville. County commissioners say the $18 million ballpark would provide family-friendly entertainment and revitalize a commercially depressed village where the central landmarks include a rarely used tobacco warehouse, Amish shed stores and auto shops.
"Having the stadium in Hughesville is an amenity that's going to help us attract quality businesses," said Marcia Stevenson, marketing director for the county's Economic Development Commission.
But the more than 300 residents who have formed a group called Preserve Hughesville are afraid of just that. They are lobbying against turning their woods and soybean fields into parking lots and a baseball diamond. They say it's a short jump from a stadium to fast-food restaurants, big-box stores or office parks.
"The community is going to be desecrated. This is a fight for survival," said Donna Cave, 59, president of Preserve Hughesville. "I don't know why our quality of life isn't as important as getting a stadium."
Members of the citizens group have written hundreds of letters to newspapers, designated captains in two dozen neighborhoods to pass out fliers, and turned out in force for all meetings on the project. About 400 people crammed into an elementary school auditorium for the first public forum last month, confronting pro-stadium speakers with signs and catcalls.
"We know change is coming, but we want to have some say in the process," said Joan Herbert, 55, who raises flowers in Hughesville. "I look out on a big soybean field behind my house. I can't imagine that it might be all concrete."
There are indications that their voices are being heard.
The initial plan called for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, the local power company, to donate eight acres to the county for the stadium. After criticism over that idea, the utility decided that it might sell the land at market rate, but no deal has been reached. And some officials have begun considering other locations.
"Hughesville might not be the permanent site for this stadium," Charles County Commissioner W. Daniel Mayer (R-La Plata) said yesterday. "Beyond citizen opposition, there are other challenges with infrastructure and water and sewer. But we haven't given up on it."
Another ballpark obstacle is funding. The county and Maryland Baseball LLC, the private partner in the project, have committed $6 million each and asked the state to pay an equal share. But some members of Southern Maryland's state legislative delegation have been reserved about endorsing the project.
"They may still be able to find a good site," said Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. (D-St. Mary's). "There's no sense dowsing the thing now."
No minor league team has been chosen to play in Hughesville. But an initial stadium rendering was presented to the public last month. The two-story, shingle-roof stadium would have a playground and a grass hill ringing the outfield for picnic seating.
"It's about quality-of-life benefits and quality entertainment, but it's also a magnet for economic development," said Peter Kirk, chairman of Maryland Baseball, which has built stadiums and operated minor league teams in four Maryland communities -- Bowie, Frederick, Salisbury and Aberdeen.
"There are always people who have serious questions and oppose the project for one reason or another," he said. "Just look at what's happening in D.C. It's the same thing here."