- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

Virginia’s baseball dreams for Arlington refuse to die.

The Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority — months after privately conceding its hopes for a much-coveted ballpark in Pentagon City were essentially gone — has again begun to look seriously at a parcel controlled by the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the District-based H Street Building Corp.

Those two entities, fiercely opposed to a stadium on their land, last summer scuttled the authority’s plan by starting formal talks with Arlington County officials to build a conference center and hotel on the same spot eyed for a ballpark.

But still incomplete negotiations on the public-private venture have extended estimates on a conference center opening to as late as 2011, four years later than first targeted. None of the principals involved can guarantee that the project will see the light of day.

“Ever since baseball was taken out of the equation there, the whole dynamic has changed. That partnership isn’t on such a fast track. So we think there’s still an opportunity there,” said a source close to the commonwealth’s baseball effort.

Publicly, stadium authority officials refuse to discuss the Cafritz site, one of five proposed last year for a ballpark, in any significant detail. Authority chairman Keith Frederick yesterday said “everything is still on the table,” with regard to stadium sites. And recently disclosed efforts to develop a large ballpark complex near Dulles International Airport stand as a front-burner priority.

But it remains clear the authority longs for a Pentagon City stadium, likely more so than one at the Dulles site, which has no significant opposition from landowners, government or anti-development activists.

The Pentagon City land, near the intersection of Army-Navy Drive and Eads Street, features a clear view of the monuments and is accessible to Metro. A rendering of a proposed stadium on the parcel was prominently featured last year in numerous studies, press releases and public events conducted by the authority.

Despite those feelings, opposition will remain stiff should the authority make any formal moves back toward the Pentagon City site. The Cafritz Foundation and H Street Building Corp. last year conducted an extensive grass-roots campaign to build opposition to a ballpark there. Their sentiments were echoed by the Arlington County Board, which formally requested that the authority look outside the county for a stadium site, as well as No Arlington Stadium, an outspoken activist group. The stadium authority has declined to honor the county board’s request.

“There is absolutely no change in my feelings toward baseball there,” said Jack Ritchie, H Street Building Corp president. “I made my statements on this last year, and I stick with them 100 percent.”

Ritchie vowed then he would not sell the land at any price and fight any government effort to exert powers of eminent domain.

Adam Wasserman, Arlington County director of economic development, said a formal agreement to use the Cafritz land for the conference center project could still be months away. But he disputed suggestions the effort has fallen far behind schedule.

“Projects of this scale and complexity take time,” Wasserman said. “But we remain in talks with the landowners, are very hopeful and absolutely expect this to work out. Right now, there’s nothing happening that suggests to me a reversal of the county decision [on baseball in the county].”

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