Potomac Nationals owner Art Silber has explored moving his Carolina League franchise from Pfitzner Stadium in Prince William County, Va., to other parts of Northern Virginia for nearly two decades. Now, with a $35 million project to keep the team in the county in jeopardy, he has told fans to brace for a relocation sometime after the 2018 season.
The team's current stadium opened in 1984 when the Alexandria Dukes moved to Prince William. The ballpark is five miles from the nearest interstate, but the proposed P-Nats home would've been in the Potomac Town Center complex at an I-95 exit.
However, the week before the Prince William Board of County Supervisors was to vote on the deal, Silber in his open letter said the county, Potomac Town Center owner JBG, and the P-Nats were unable to come to an agreement.
According to InsideNova.com, the board had concerns over how the team would pay back the stadium debt over a 30-year period.
Earlier this year, the board had discussed proposals for a November referendum. Silber preferred that the vote be left to the board, and the team had a Keep P-Nats Local movement that included handouts at the stadium expressing concern over a referendum.
"We are pursuing other opportunities to put a new stadium in Northern Virginia while keeping an open door to future discussions with Prince William County," Silber said in his statement.
Through a public records request, InsideNova.com found that Silber has sent emails that show optimism a deal can still be done in Prince William.
The Washington Business Journal reported that officials in Alexandria might be interested in attracting the franchise.
“The Potomac Nationals were formerly the Alexandria Dukes," Alexandria vice mayor Justin Wilson said in the report. "If there is a scenario where we could bring minor league baseball back to Alexandria, I’d be all for it. I’ve asked that our staff explore scenarios that might be feasible."
Another possibility is nearby Loudoun County, which had plans to build a new ballpark for an independent Atlantic League team called the Hounds. In 2016, that stadium lease to VIP Sports and Entertainment was terminated via a settlement.
"We have two stadium sites already approved, and then we have one that is Metro-accessible that could be pretty easily approved," Loudoun county supervisor Ron Meyer told WTOP. "There's definitely an opportunity of discussions."
Silber said in his statement that the team had received interest from other jurisdictions, "but it is all very preliminary at this stage."
High Class A Potomac has been affiliated with the major league Nationals since the Montreal Expos moved to Washington after the 2004 season. With Pfitzner Stadium a 30-mile drive from Nationals Park, it is a common place for Washington to send players on major league rehab assignments.
Bryce Harper, the first pick in the 2010 draft, skipped from low Class A Hagerstown to Double-A Harrisburg in 2011, when there were concerns over Pfitzner's playing surface, but the installation of a new field in 2012 has prevented similar situations.