Perhaps Art Silber and the Potomac Nationals have finally found the perfect match to end a decades-long pursuit of a new ballpark by agreeing to move to a planned new stadium in Fredericksburg, Va., a city that has sought a minor league team for several years only to come up empty.
The Carolina League franchise and the City of Fredericksburg announced a plan on Tuesday evening to build a new ballpark for the P-Nats in a massive retail and residential development just off Interstate-95 in the growing Northern Virginia city roughly an hour south of Washington, D.C. The move would end the team’s nearly 40-year tenure in Woodbridge, Va., but would also bring to a close Silber’s two-decade pursuit of a ballpark to replace outdated Pfitzner Stadium.
Despite past failures, Silber, the longtime owner of the P-Nats, is confident that the proposed $35-million ballpark in the expansive Celebration Virginia South development will become a reality and the home of his beloved ballclub beginning in 2020. The proposal calls for the team to finance, design, construct and own the ballpark in exchange for an annual $1.05 million payment for 30 years from the city, which would be the multi-purpose stadium’s primary tenant and have use of it on non-gamedays.
Art Silber has had plenty of chances — and reasons — to give up on his dream of a new ballpark for the Potomac Nationals. For more than two decades, Silber has rolled out replacement plans for Pfitzner Stadium, the P-Nats’ ballpark in Northern Virginia that has been considered out-of-date for just as long, only to see each project collapse.
Silber said he will soon announce a new proposal for a ballpark, a little over a year after his latest — and most promising — bid fell through. Silber said he has been in talks with several Northern Virginia communities interested in hosting his Carolina League franchise. He plans to announce his new project in the next 60 to 90 days.
Silber wouldn’t reveal the locations he’s considering, however last summer he called Fredericksburg, Va., a “very viable” market, according to the Free Lance-Star. Fredericksburg has previously flirted with other minor league teams, including as a landing spot for the Hagerstown Suns in 2014.
Silber, a Brooklyn native and lifelong Jackie Robinson fan who used to wear No. 42 while coaching first base for the P-Nats, remains optimistic about building a new ballpark — even if history has given him reasons to not be. “I’m 77 now. I believe that we will celebrate my 80th birthday in a new ballpark.”