The view of the front gate depicted in a rendering of a new 6,000 stadium for the Potomac Nationals. [Image;; Potomac Nationals]

By MARY ROSENTHOL
For Potomac Local News

On Sunday night the Potomac Nationals celebrated their 18th annual Hot Stove Banquet and Silent Auction with 131 employees and fans in attendance. The Hyatt at Fair Lakes was the site for the event.

“Our Hot Stove Banquet is a popular event with the fans,” said team owner Art Silber, “It’s really the unofficial start to a new season and this year, I’m excited to show everyone the plans for the new park.”

Fans greeted Silber’s grandchildren with hugs and smiles during the evening. The Silbers have owned the Nationals for 21 years and the overall feeling for the evening was like a large family reunion.

The evening kicked off with an open cocktail hour and bidding on a silent auction, prizes included everything from a night at the Hyatt to baseball memorabilia. All proceeds benefit the Prince William County Public Schools SPARK program, which allows middle school children in the county to attend a Nationals game during the school year.

“This is our fifth year supporting the SPARK program,” said Nationals General Manager Josh Olerud. “By the end of the year, 25,000 students will have seen a game. The program covers all the transportation, ticket cost and food. We’re very proud of it.”

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Along with the continued support of the SPARK program, in 2013 fans can look forward to 17 fireworks nights, 5 celebrity appearances, and lots of giveaways during the games.

Finally, the evening ended with the presentation of plans for the new stadium. Fans cheered at images of a stadium that would include over 400 parking spaces, easy access to Interstate 95, a large beer garden, a new playground, several new concession stands and views of the Potomac River on three levels.

“We worked hard to make the design of the new stadium harkens back to the days of Griffith Field,” Silber said during the presentation. “There will be a large presidential box just like the old Senator Stadium had and the complex is designed with the same asymmetrical style in mind.”

Currently, plans for the new stadium are going trough the permitting process in Prince William County. Silber said that the project would be fast tracked once the initial paperwork is complete. The team is expected to be in its new home by 2015.

“I understand there are some concerns as there will be with any new project,” Silber said after the presentation. “But it’s my money, not the county’s and I want to build a new stadium. I think once people see the new stadium and appreciate the amenities it offers the community, they will be pleased,” said Silber.

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[Image: Potomac Nationals]