Corey Stewart’s Baseball Boondoggle

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For years, the Potomac Nationals, a Minor League affiliate of the Washington Nationals, have played ball in Prince William County. If it’s up to gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart, taxpayers from his own county will shell out millions to build a new stadium and who knows how many new road lanes to keep the minor draw in town:

In addition to construction costs, county taxpayers would be on the hook for up to $7 million in site work to prepare the stadium site and cover the cost of a $450,000 annual rent payment to JBG Companies, the owners of the Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center where the new stadium would be built.

The annual rent payment would be the most expensive in all of Minor Leauge Baseball, said Michelle Attreed, who works in the county budget office. With a rent escalator clause in the contract, the county would pay millions in rental fees to JBG Companies for the seven acres of land on which the stadium will sit, across from Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.

In 2016, 195,000 people attended Potomac Nationals games, third from the bottom in the Carolina League and just a bit behind the Salem Red Sox, who play their ball in much less populous Southwest Virginia. The P-Nats lag far behind the Frederick Keys, an Orioles affiliate in nearby Frederick, Maryland.

Chairman Stewart has long championed the deal, which will leave taxpayers on the hook via bonds for the next 30 years. While the ownership team will eventually pay back the cost of the stadium itself, there are significant infrastructure challenges at the proposed site:

A transportation analysis to identify what transportation improvements are needed for roads around the stadium is underway. The study includes traffic counts of cars during peak rush hour times, and the study could show Potomac Town Center Boulevard, Gideon Drive, and Dale Boulevard — all roads leading to the stadium site — need to be improved at taxpayers cost.

While the stadium would be visible from Interstate 95, drivers would not have direct access to it from the highway. “Those going to the stadium must use the local road network,” said Prince William County Transportation Department Director Rick Canizales.

If the road improvement costs are too much, that could be enough to kill the deal.

As a Prince William County resident who used to live a mere 5 minutes from the proposed site, color me skeptical of the county’s ability to minimize congestion in what’s already a hyper-congested area. Route 1, running near the site, has already been a constant work in progress, and Dale Boulevard is a key linchpin in getting PWC drivers onto I-95.

This is a typical Corey Stewart play — crony capitalism that yields something that looks nice and produces little in economic value.

Readers of this site know that I love both baseball and economic development. I’ve been to Potomac Nationals games. This is a bad deal for taxpayers.