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Prince William on the Hook for New Covered Batting Tunnels at Old Pfitzner Stadium

WOODBRIDGE, Va. — Prince William taxpayers are about to sink more money into a baseball stadium that will soon be replaced with a new one.

County officials are set to authorize funding for construction of new covered batting tunnels to be built at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge – home of the Potomac Nationals Minor League Baseball team which is affiliated with the Washington Nationals.

Per Washington’s rules, the covered batting tunnels are required for their minor league team. The tunnels allow hitters to get in batting practice before and during the game, and not having them could adversely affect the players.

“It does affect the development process with the players, and it’s something that is in our agreement with the [Washington Nationals],” said Potomac Nationals General Manager Josh Olerud.

Rainy weather during a recent home game meant batters could not practice in the open air practice tunnels before taking the field, Olerud added.

The new tunnels will cost about $33,000, and Prince William County – which owns the stadium – will cover about a third of the cost. The tunnels will be 22 feet wide by 70 feet long, and will sit where the current uncovered batters’ practice areas are now, underneath the bleachers on side of the stadium and by the children’s area on the other side.

These improvements are the final phase of construction in a multi-phase lease deal between the county and the Potomac Nationals.

Pfitzner Stadium – built in 1984 and nestled behind the Prince William County Government Center — is one of the oldest in the team’s Carolina League. The batters tunnels were continually put off in lieu new drainage and irrigation to the stadium’s field after it was deemed unplayable by Major League Baseball in 2011. The stadium’s clubhouses on the home and visitors side were also improved.

Construction on the new tunnels should take about two weeks when the project gets the green light. It comes as the team is looking to abandon Pfitzner and open a new 6,000-seat stadium in 2016 at Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center between Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center and a Wegmans grocery store.

The team’s current lease agreement expires in December 2015 and construction on their new home is being held up due to stadium naming rights negotiations.

“To the best of our knowledge Mr. Silber is still working on a naming rights deal which would pay for the vertical construction for the new stadium. The county would not own the new stadium,” said Prince William Deputy County Executive Susan Roltsch.

Team owner Art Silber in January told Potomac Local News he expected to make an announcement on the naming rights deal by April but no name has been announced. Olerud said there are a “couple irons in the fire for the name game” and hopes to be able to do announce a deal soon.

As for Pfitzner?

“We’re pretty optimistic that this is the last major upgrade that we need to adhere to as required with our agreement with [The Washington Nationals,]” Olerud said.

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