ST. CHARLES – What is soon to be Regency Furniture Stadium is still a densely forested 40-acre plot outside of Waldorf.
The professional baseball team that is slated to begin its season there in late April or early May 2007 doesn’t yet have a name, or even players.
But behind the scenes, minor league baseball in Southern Maryland is beginning to take shape – stadium plans have been drawn up, funding is falling into place for the field and the team’s name is to be announced later this month.
“We’ll be playing next year,” predicts Andy Frankel, spokesman for Maryland Baseball, LLC, the team’s owner.
The team will compete in the independent Atlantic league, which is made up of eight teams in communities from Pennsylvania to Connecticut. Maryland Baseball already owns two of them – the Camden (N.J.) Riversharks and Lancaster (Penn.) Barnstormers.
John Danos, president of Maryland Baseball, said the team is a “perfect fit” for the region, which is in the midst of an economic boom.
The nearby 9,600-acre St. Charles development is already home to 35,000 people, and is creeping ever closer to the stadium site as houses continue to spring up.
The team will be “a catalyst for economic development and community pride…and good, clean fun,” Danos said. “Our hope is that it adds to the quality of life and gives families a good, viable, affordable option for entertainment.”
The Southern Maryland team will enter a state already home to four minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles – the Bowie Baysox, Frederick Keys, Delmarva Shorebirds and Aberdeen IronBirds.
The Southern Maryland team’s name will be chosen from the Aviators, Blue Crabs, Blue Herons, Eagles, Ospreys and Rockfish.
Danos said he hopes to bring 3,000 to 4,000 fans to Regency Furniture Stadium for each of the team’s 70 home games. The park’s capacity will be around 4,500.
Bowie is only about 25 miles north of Waldorf, but Baysox general manager Brian Shallcross said that competition for some of the same fan base doesn’t bother him.
“They certainly will take some of our fans, in the short run,” Shallcross said. “Once the novelty wears off, things will be back to normal.”
Like Bowie, which has seen retail stores, restaurants and condominiums fill in around Prince George’s Stadium, Danos said that the team could provide a similar spark in the Waldorf area.
The entertainment and economic nudges don’t come cheaply enough in the eyes of some local residents.
The clanks, bangs, buzzes and hums of construction equipment are occasionally audible as houses are built across the street in St. Charles. Drivers dodge traffic cones on Billingsley Road, the main artery that carries locals toward Waldorf and Washington, as crews add lanes.
Having a baseball stadium for a neighbor was the last straw for many in the sleepy Quade Street neighborhood, prompting them to pack up and leave the houses that some have lived it for decades.
Gary Barnhart, a county government employee, said he plans to move his wife and four children before opening day 2007.
“The neighborhood is already being built up to fast,” Barnhart said. “It’s probably good for the county, but not in my neighborhood.”
Sande Ali, who lives with her husband and two young children, said construction has already begun on her new house in King George’s County, Virginia.
“We’ve got an abundance of stadiums and things like that, so I don’t think the money is necessary,” Ali said. “It brings in more traffic, more crime and more pollution.”
Team owners, the county and the state will split evenly the $21 million price tag for the multiuse stadium, which will have an old-time, manually operated scoreboard, a picnic area beyond the outfield wall, and a carousel. “Young fans get bored by the third or fourth inning,” Danos said. “This is family entertainment, it’s not appealing to the hardcore baseball fans.”