By: John Lombardo, Staff Reporter
[It should be noted that the following Washington Business Journal article is copyrighted. The contents may not be reproduced without permission of the publisher, Washington Business Journal, 2000 14th Street North, Suite 500, Arlington, Virginia 22201. The Association received permission to publish this information in the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association Newsletter.]
Finding a site in Northern Virginia for a proposed baseball stadium is moving into the spotlight again after lawmakers approved a measure that could pay for half of the $300 million facility.
Arlington is the front-runner to land the 48,000-seat stadium, according to several people close to the search.
Proponents of bringing professional baseball to Northern Virginia said a nine-month test lottery, which will determine if the state can raise $14 million a year to pay its share of the stadium, is a major step in convincing Major League Baseball to locate a team in the area.
One option is a half-hour lottery game show, similar to Florida's lucrative Flamingo Fortune show. Should the show generated the $14 million, it would be approved as the state's main stadium-financing mechanism.
"Baseball insiders now know that we have a financial apparatus in place, and the local jurisdictions know that the next issue is the site selection," said Michael T. Scanlon, executive vice president of the William Collins-led investment groups that wants to buy a baseball franchise. "We are now about to undertake that process."
But the site-selection process is likely to stir controversy.
A year ago, the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority failed in its attempt to find suitable stadium locations after requiring interested jurisdictions to submit a $150,000 site-selection fee.
A number of locations, particularly the Twin Bridges Marriott site in Arlington just north of Washington National Airport, were pulled from consideration after heavy community opposition.
Now it's back to the future for stadium authority members.
"We'd like to have the sites selected by the end of the year," said authority Chairman Ken Crovo. "It's conceivable that we could select several sites."
Collins and the stadium authority are hoping Major League Baseball will award a team to Northern Virginia in 1998 when another round of expansion is expected. Proponents said having stadium financing and a location approved greatly enhances the chances of bringing a team to the area.
Authority members said a handful of proposed sites are under serious consideration, but they would not identify specific locations.
"There are three or four that have gotten some serious review and Arlington is one of them," said a stadium authority member. "There are a whole range of possibilities in Arlington."
Sources also said Collins' group is pushing for a site in Arlington.
"The Virginia Baseball Club and some members of the authority are enamored with the Arlington site," said Michael Frey, a Fairfax County supervisor and a member of the stadium authority.
Collins would not comment on sites, saying only the investment group favors sites along the Interstate 95 and I-395 corridor.
"We want to draw not only from the District and the Northern Virginia suburbs, [but also] from downstate," Collins said.
For Northern Virginia officials, the site-selection process could come with a plum: a trip sponsored by the stadium authority to various cities where new baseball stadiums have been built. Crovo said he's considering organizing a trip to Cleveland, Dallas and Denver with local lawmakers.
"It's an idea I've thought about," he said. "Each county would have two people accompany members of the authority to show the impact that stadiums have and how they become part of an environment."
Crovo did not say how the trip would be financed.