Northern Virginia baseball backers announced plans Monday for a $442 million, 42,500-seat ballpark for the Montreal Expos near Dulles International Airport, a proposal they hope will persuade owners to relocate the team to their community.
Northern Virginia and downtown Washington, D.C., appear to be the leading candidates to get the Expos, who were bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season. Other bidders include Las Vegas; Monterrey, Mexico; Norfolk; Portland, Ore.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Baseball officials hope to make a decision by mid-July, and financing for a ballpark has been a major concern.
The only government action required for the Northern Virginia plan would be site plan approval from the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. A majority of the board attended a rally Monday to express support.
“We have the public will to get it done,” Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority chairman Keith Frederick said. “We have a financing plan that is ready to go. We’ve got a great site. We are ready.”
The plan calls for the ballpark to be part of a town square-style development that would include residential, retail and commercial space.
The developer proposing the plan–a consortium of builders Beazer, Centex and Van Metre companies–is willing to contribute $82 million in infrastructure costs, reducing the ballpark cost from $442 million to $360 million.
Supporters say the Dulles site’s distance from Washington is a plus because a team there would be less likely to damage the Baltimore Orioles, who say a D.C.-area team will hurt that franchise.
Much of the financing for the stadium already is in place under a 1997 Virginia law that permits the state to pay two-thirds of the cost of a new stadium, using taxes generated by the ballpark to pay back the bonds.
While it would be interesting to have a Major League Baseball team (well, sort of–these are the Expos) fifteen minutes down the road, I’m not sure it would be worth it. For one thing, taxpayer financing of sports stadia is idiotic and counterproductive. For another, the last thing we need is more traffic on Route 28 in the evenings. Plus, I really don’t want an NL East team in my hometown, since I’ve long been a fan of the division rival Atlanta Braves.
Logistically, however, Dulles makes much more sense than DC. The District’s infrastructure is simply not up to hosting a MLB franchise anymore. Traffic is already a zoo in the evenings; inviting 75,000 fans to stream in during the rush hour would be madness.