“Oh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.” - Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) from the movie “Field of Dreams” (1989)
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - A crowd estimated at around 1,000 roared its approval when this scene was played on the video screen at the Fredericksburg Convention & Expo Center off of Carl D. Silver Parkway on Sunday, kicking off the ceremonial groundbreaking for the brand new baseball stadium for the Potomac Nationals.
Could have just as well been Dyersville, Iowa.
But the fans who attended the groundbreaking for the new home of Fredericksburg Baseball made one thing clear: Baseball is alive and well in this part of Virginia, and they welcome the Nationals’ high Single-A minor league team with open arms.
The proposed 6,000-seat stadium is set to open in April 2020 on a site next to the convention center. The fans of the team - which will be renamed upon its move to Fredericksburg - have demonstrated with their pocketbooks their enthusiasm for the opportunity to watch prospects who dream of playing in the big leagues get their start up the minor league chain.
The club announced it has already sold three-year season ticket commitments to the Founder’s Club to 1,260 fans. The 13 available suites at the new stadium have already been sold out. The team had 12 1/2 suites sold prior to the arrival of its sales team Sunday in Fredericksburg. The remaining half-suite was gone before the official groundbreaking began in mid-afternoon.
“We knew a lot of people were coming today. but you don’t what it’s like until they start streaming in,” said Seth Silber, son of club owner Art Silber. “And the expression of thanks to us for doing this is overwhelming. This means so much to this community. And we are so fortunate to be here. This is the right place for minor league baseball.”
Fredericksburg Baseball announced that a name-the-team contest will be introduced on the club’s website very soon, and that a team store downtown will soon be opened.
Mark Scialabba, the Nationals’ director of player development, represented the parent club at the event, and spoke to fans and shared in their excitement for the new park.
“We are obviously thrilled for the Silber family, the city of Fredericksburg, our franchise and ultimately our players to be able to play in a state-of-the-art facility,” Scialabba said. “It’s all come together, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
The Silber family had worked nearly two decades to find a new home for the Potomac Nationals as aging Pfitzner Stadium fell behind in providing adequate accommodations for the team and its fans in the competitive Carolina League.
The Silbers found a willing partner in their dream for a new stadium with the city and people of Fredericksburg.
“This has been a long time in the works and it is special to do it as a family,” Seth Silber said. “My dad is standing right here. My sister and I have been down here working on this, making it go forward together. Things work out for the right reasons. We didn’t know this community until we came down here a year ago. I think being in Northern Virginia, and I live very close to D.C., we didn’t understand what was here. Once we got here, we now understand.”
“There’s a picture on the front page of the paper of my sister crying with me with my arm around her and then the mayor hugging her. These are not normal things that happen. It’s very, very meaningful to us.”
Silber said ownership expects to start construction in the next month or two. He expressed confidence that construction will be completed in time because of his partnership with minor league baseball executive Peter Kirk, who has experience in constructing similar stadiums in Frederick and Bowie, Md., Delmarva and Southern Maryland, as well as in York and Lancaster, Pa.
“We will pull it off,” Silber said. “And it’s not just pulling it off. It’s going to be a great, great ballpark with incredibly unique features. I am a student of ballparks and I’ve looked at these stadiums all over, and I’ve picked up the things I like here and there in different places and we’re going to carry them forward here. It’s going to be a very unique place.”