Baseball Stadium On Deck In Springfield?

Baseball Stadium On Deck In Springfield?

Of all the baseball stadium options, the projected cost of putting a Major League Baseball stadium on the Fort Belvoir Engineering Proving Ground site in southern Springfield is the cheapest, at a estimated projected cost of $378.6 million.

Springfield residents, baseball enthusiasts and politicians gathered in West Springfield High School on Tuesday night to look at the numbers and offer facts and opinions. On the surface, each seemed to have a point.

Gabe Paul Jr. was announced as a facilitator with the Milwaukee Brewers organization for 26 years. He pointed out three positive financial areas of the move. They were a revision of the state sales tax, the state's ability to tax visiting ball players and the addition of a 10 percent admission tax.

"We're very lucky the state legislature already has a number of things that have been voted on," Paul said. "All these revenue sources come from the ballpark."

Dave Mahoney was at the pro-stadium table as well. He represented "proposed ballpark site concepts," and addressed the traffic solutions with words such as "residual capacity," for one.

"A lot of those people heading down to this site will be HOV folks," Mahoney said. "There's plenty of capacity to bring about 1,500 up from the south."

Supervisor Dana Kauffman (D-Lee) had another viewpoint, using the term "corporate welfare."

"This is a bad idea," Kauffman said. "This is not about an American past-time, it's about land use and your tax dollars. We should not be putting baseball here or anywhere in Northern Virginia."

Kauffman then put the question back to the Virginians For Baseball group, which consisted of Brian Hannigan, communications director; Supervisor Michael Frey (R-Sully), chairman; William Collins III, chairman and chief executive officer of Virginia Baseball Club, LLC; Joseph Pobiner, AICP; David Mahoney, vice president of Dewberry; and Gabe Paul Jr., executive director of Virginians Baseball Stadium Authority.

"If all these wonderful financial advantages are true, why aren't they paying for it and reaping 100 percent of the benefits?" Kauffman asked.

SIX YEARS AGO, when baseball was first proposed for the area, Kauffman was for it. But he took the question of building a stadium in Springfield to his constituents and received overwhelming opposition to the idea.

Del. Dave Albo (R-42nd) also spoke out against the stadium. He looked at the area surrounding the site.

"The problem I have is the site at the EPG. There's already enough problems with traffic around the Springfield Interchange," he said.

Questions from the audience were addressed as well. They include quality of life issues, sales of the EPG land, Metrorail accessibility, the constitutionality of taxing the ball players, infrastructure and the Fairfax County Parkway extension, which is already in the works. Pobiner thought the location of the existing Franconia-Springfield blue line station would be augmented by a walking bridge from the station to the stadium or a Metro extension.

"A project can encourage improvement to the rail system," he said.

"It adds another element to the area which is entertainment," said Paul, addressing the quality of life issue.

Barbara Eckstein is the president of the Orange Hunt Estates civic association. She is also a commuter who previously lived in San Diego and drove by Qualcomm Stadium on game days. She wasn't buying the transportation scenario the group painted.

"If you add another 5,000 vehicles, what do you think will happen? Eckstein asked. "In San Diego, it was stop and go traffic every game day. We can't pay for our infrastructure now, to me it's paradoxical."

She was aware of the issue when it was introduced a few years ago.

"When the county voted in 2001, why do we have to keep listening to these guys?" she said, before answering her own question "It's the low ball, that's why they like it."

Dave Myer brought up another point not addressed by the pro-stadium group.

"One thing they haven't mentioned is spending the first few years at RFK," he said. "That's going to cost $10 to 20 million. That's nowhere in their study."

The high school cafeteria had its share of pro-stadium advocates as well. Susan Valentine is a Kingstowne resident and was against her own board members speaking on behalf of all the residents of Kingstowne.

"I would rather have the stadium here then no stadium at all," she said.

Whether a stadium is built in Northern Virginia or the D.C. Metro area gets a baseball team at all hinges on Major League Baseball's decision of where the Montreal Expos will be playing in 2004. Other cities are vying to be the team's home and a decision is expected to be reached after the Major League All-Star break in July.

Arlington resident Richard Herbst is attending all the meetings taking place in Northern Virginia. He agrees with Kauffman on the notion of it as "corporate welfare."

"I listened to the same thing last night," Herbst said. "They used the same slippery terminology. We view it as corporate welfare. You're subsidizing the wealthy."