The Alexandria Dukes appear to be secure for at least another year at their Four Mile Run Park home and close to regaining a major league affilliation, despite an effort by the city school board to evict the Carolina League baseball club.
In its Wednesday night meeting, the school board reaffirmed its earlier stand by voting, 5 to 4, not to allow the team to renew its lease for the field adjacent to Cora Kelly Elementary School, which will reopen in September after a four-year hiatus. Board members cited the interference the baseball operation would cause to the educational process.
But word travels fast in Alexandria and less than an hour later the city council, which maintains that it owns the field and that the school board only controls the building, interrupted its last meeting of the summer to vote, 5 to 1, with one abstention, to allow the Dukes to use the stadium for another year, with a possible two-year extension.
"I'm amazed by the vote of the school board, " said Donald C. Casey, the main Duke proponent on the council. "It's our field."
"I don't think the board was surprised by the council's action. I was surprised by the rapidity of it," said Allison M. May, outgoing board chairman. "I rather surmised that if the board turned down the request, the council would take this action. Perhaps, it's just as well. This is a city council matter, baseball. We're only concerned with education."
The Dukes will have to make arrangements to replace the school wing they use for offices, locker rooms and showers. Because the school will operate at only 50 to 60 percent of its capacity in 1980-81, May said, "If the city council asks the new board (which begins July 1) to reconsider (use of the wing), I'm sure it will."
The Dukes, who did not previously get renewals of its lease until December or January, asked for an early decision so they could negotiate an agreement with a major league club by mid-July.
"We have a letter in my files from Seattle committing them to a long-term three-year working agreement here in Alexandria, providing we have a place to play," Dukes President Eugene Thomas said. "New York (Yankees) has indicated interest and Baltimore has indicated interest.