Though owner Art Silber says the Potomac Nationals (High A; Carolina League) could be moved elsewhere in the D.C. region or sold to out-of-state buyers, he was still holding out hope that a new Prince William County ballpark could be built — but the numbers are not promising.
As you’ll recall, Silber and Prince William County had negotiated the terms of a new-ballpark agreement, only to see a vote from the Board of Supervisors cancelled at the last minute. There were some disagreements over the parameters of the deal — particularly explicit commitments about debt servicing — but in the end the Board of Supervisors probably would not have supported the deal, and neither did Silber.
InsideNoVa has a long account of the last days of negotiations over the Prince William County deal, based on emails obtained from county officials under a FOIA request. Now, a lot of what is described in the emails is watching how the sausage gets made, and if you love to read stories about contract negotiations, that story is for you. The lesson here for anyone in the baseball industry: don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal that doesn’t work for you. The Prince William County deal called for the P-Nats to pay at least $2.7 million each year in debt service, with the amounts left opened-ended — a huge amount of debt for any MiLB team, much less a High-A Carolina League team that’s been barely profitable in recent years. The assumption was that the team could grow its way to profitability even with such a big yearly nut, but such growth isn’t assured by any stretch — something that Silber realized. From InsideNoVa:
Part of the problem could be that the team will need a massive increase in profits to keep up a $2.7 million annual payment. In financial statements provided to the county and released through InsideNoVa’s records request, the P-Nats averaged an annual income of just under $8,500 over the last five fiscal years. That includes a loss of more than $81,200 in 2015, and a total profit of just $1,740 in 2014.
Through a spokeswoman, the team cites reports from consultants showing that a new stadium will result in a huge increase in revenue to help offset the numbers it’s managed in the aging Pfitzner Stadium over the last few years.
But Silber has repeatedly called the county’s proposals “financial suicide” for the team in the wake of his rejection of the deal.
It’s hard to see how a High-A team could generate enough revenue to cover $2.7 million annual in debt service. The question now is whether Prince William County will come back to the table to discuss a more equitable deal or whether Silber will pull a trigger on a move or a sale of the Potomac Nationals.
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