Virginia baseball: Strike two Rebuffed by counties: Suburban hostility to stadium should point investors back to D.C.

June 21, 1996

THE NOTION OF building a $300 million stadium for National League baseball in the middle of fast-growing suburbia just doesn't excite Northern Virginians. Four counties have rebuffed a group looking for a suitable location -- for good reason.

Residents don't want the traffic and noise. Counties don't want the heavy infrastructure expenses, and they see little economic benefit.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. Angry communities in Northern Virginia previously blocked a race track and a Redskins football stadium. The message is clear.

It amounts to Strike two for the investor group. Last year, baseball owners blocked purchase of the Houston Astros. There's no indication circumstances have changed dramatically.

The entire undertaking is questionable. Baseball officials doubt the financial viability of the investor group; no Northern Virginia site is likely to withstand zoning and legal challenges without years of delay; financing plans for the stadium are suspect.

This is good news for Peter G. Angelos, whose Orioles draw 20 percent of their fans from suburban Washington. He would fight any incursion into his territory. But there's no denying the D.C. area deserves a baseball team of its own. Not in Northern Virginia, though.

Locating stadiums far from cities won't fly. The trend is to put them downtown. Oriole Park is a prime example. So is Cleveland's Jacobs Field. It's no accident these are the two top-drawing American League stadiums.

Northern Virginia investors should head to the dugout and turn the bat over to the D.C. Sports Commission. RFK Stadium can be totally renovated for far less than $300 million. It has a Metro stop. It is on a major highway. It is convenient to millions of fans.

The thriving Baltimore-Washington market can support two baseball teams and two football teams. A new Washington club, though, should play its games in a central, urban location. Baseball in the suburbs just won't make it in the majors. It would be Strike three.

Pub date: 06/21/96

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