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Supervisor Pushing for Potomac Nationals Ballpark Vote

New Potomac Nationals ballpark

Prince William County supervisor continues to push for a public vote on a financing plan for a new Potomac Nationals (High A; Carolina League) ballpark, but in the process is seeking to totally overhaul the bonding plan in his opposition to any county participation in the process.

Supervisor Pete Candland (R-Gainesville) says voters should be asked to approve a financing plan for the $35-million ballpark, saying that the risks of the deal should force city officials to seek public approval. He’s pushed for a public vote in the past and failed, but he’s back with another proposal to put the issue on the fall ballot.

Candland may be stacking the deck here, however. His proposed ballot language asks voters to approve the entire $7o-million project, including a $21-million parking garage funded by the state, not the county.   And to force the question on the ballot, he’s proposing shifting the borrowing from the county’s Industrial Development Authority to the county’s general obligation fund. If there is indeed a good chance of default, as Candland argues, the less risky method of borrowing would be via the IDA.

One interesting issue Candland raising: how to ensure the team will pay $2.7 million annually in debt service and rent. Other supervisors point out the existence of a lease — the usual way to ensure a landlord receives payments from a tenant — and others point out that Minor League Baseball doesn’t allow teams to walk away from leases if there is debt service remaining. From the Prince William Times:

Tom Sebastian, JBG’s vice president of development, said such a guarantee isn’t necessary because the deal is backed by Minor League Baseball, which has never let a team default. At worst, the league might sell the team to another owner who can make the payments, Sebastian said.

“There is a very strong credit behind the lease and it’s called the Potomac Nationals baseball team,” Sebastian said, adding that Forbes has valued the team between $15 and $20 million.

Lani Silber Weiss, president of the family-owned team, assured attendees that Minor League Baseball would have to approve the financing deal, adding: “They have to make sure it’s a solid deal.”

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