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Chamber of Commerce Against Possible Referendum on P-Nats Ballpark

New Potomac Nationals ballpark

A local chamber of commerce has come out against holding a voter referendum on a proposed Potomac Nationals (High A; Carolina League) ballpark, saying that the final decision should be made by county supervisors. 

As Prince William County weighs the proposal for a new P-Nats ballpark, some officials are arguing that the final decision should be left in the hands of voters. The county could consider that matter at a meeting on June 20, when it is expected to vote on whether or not to place the plan for a new ballpark on the November ballot.

In a letter to board chairman Corey Stewart, the Prince William Chamber of Commerce expressed its disapproval of a potential referendum.  Believing that it could create a more volatile process, the chamber said that it would prefer to see the Board of Supervisors make the decision on its own rather than leaving placing it into a more uncertain process.

“Private sector negotiations with public entities do not occur in a vacuum,” the letter states. “The Chamber has serious concerns about the future negative economic development implications created through a volatile and unpredictable negotiating process.” More from the Prince William Times:

“We want the board to make a business decision. We don’t want it to be a political decision,” said Brendon Shaw, director of government relations for the chamber.

Shaw said the chamber’s board of directors held meetings to learn the details of the proposed $35 million stadium deal and heard input from supervisors as well as representatives from the P-Nats baseball team and JBG Companies, which owns Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center in Woodbridge.

The stadium has been proposed for a vacant, 7-acre lot between Wegmans grocery store and Opitz Boulevard. As currently written, the stadium would be financed with county-backed Industrial Development Authority bonds and owned by Prince William County.

The PNats have pledged to pay the full debt service on the bonds as well as the ground rent for the site at an annual cost of about $2.7 million. The team has also pledged to pay all operations and maintenance costs for the new stadium and an adjacent parking garage. The garage would double as commuter parking on weekdays and has tentatively been slated to be funded by a state transportation grant. The Commonwealth Transportation Board is scheduled to make a final decision on funding the garage later this month.

Last month, supervisor Pete Candland proposed language that asks voters to consider the entire $70 million ballpark project–including a $21 million garage that could be funded by the state. His proposal also called for shifting the borrowing from the Industrial Development Authority to the county’s general obligation fund. A previous vote by supervisors on whether to put the ballpark proposal on the ballot ended in a tie, thus failing to pass.

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