Prince William County could become home to the new Washington Commanders stadium.
This topic was the focus of our most recent Community Conversations segment.
Dumfries Mayor Derrick Wood joined us for the segment and spoke about benefits the stadium would bring.
Check out the video interview here:
This is the transcription:
ST Billingsley: Thank you for joining us here on What’s Up Prince William for community conversations. Today, we have Derrick Wood, Mayor of Dumfries. Thank you very much for being on our show today.
Derrick Wood: Thank you. Thank you for the invitation. Always a pleasure to come by and to really be able to engage with your listeners and your readers about what’s going on in the community. So thank you.
ST Billingsley: So we have, one of the things I’ll say it’s in the news right now is the Washington Commanders where Prince William County is being considered for a possible stadium. So what are some things that you think that would be beneficial for the community for actually having it here?
Derrick Wood: I think first of all, a stadium and one of the things I look at when deciding any projects or development is I look at the vision. Because everything has to line up with the vision. For us, it’s a strategic plan, a comprehensive planning. So when I do projects, and the public have to weigh in on these comprehensive plans, on these strategic plans, and all those other things. And one of the reasons that I know I got elected was I said, I was going to make Dumfries a destination place that people from all over DC and Maryland, they just wasn’t going to drive through Dumfries, but we were going to find reasons for them to drive to Dumfries.
Derrick Wood: And so when you look at the benefits of a stadium, and rather I like things, I might not like the football team or none of that, but I always measure things based on the vision. So does this vision of bringing the stadium, does that make people drive through Dumfries or is it going to make people drive to Dumfries? Or Prince William County. And so in this case, people are going to want drive through with a stadium. And so the obvious question, people immediately for whatever reasons, they’re going to try to think, what are the reasons why this won’t work. That’s how their mind-
ST Billingsley: Such as traffic, those type of things.
Derrick Wood: Yeah. And so my mind goes to, I’m a solution-oriented mayor, solution-oriented person, period. I’m going to look at all the reasons why this can work. And I think it’s three reasons I came up with and I look at this holistically is our infrastructure is broken. People have been crying, traffic, traffic, traffic for… I came here in 2001 and people were crying traffic. So traffic is one of those things that’s not going anywhere. So a project like this will give us an opportunity to really frame the conversation about what infrastructure things or what things can we do to fast forward or give us the fast pass to fixing the infrastructure, the traffic issues? Otherwise, nobody’s talking about the solutions to the major traffic issues. So we frame our minds around what are some of the things we can do to make this work.
Derrick Wood: And I looked at it immediately when they brought it to me and I said, “Wow, we have an opportunity of a lifetime to probably get some infrastructure deals that we might not even looked for the next 50 or 100 years. One of them being two-way rail service. I’m on the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. So we see that Long Bridge project is fully funded. For those who don’t know about the Long Bridge project, it’s another train bridge across the Potomac River. Right now, there’s only a track going one direction. So people who try to catch the VRE to commute, it only goes one direction in the morning and it comes the other direction in the afternoon. What the Long Bridge project could do, it would give you two-way rail service on the VRE. And that will allow us if we can get extended hours. Because right now it’s only doing commuter hours because they don’t have the demand or the traffic.
Derrick Wood: A stadium project will probably fast track because I would say anybody that’s on this that has the authority to vote on this or to bring it, one of the things that needs to be in place first is the infrastructure to be able to support that traffic. In the Dumfries area, which is the Potomac District… Shout out to Supervisor Andrew Bailey. They have a VRE station slated to come in Potomac Shores. And I think this will be able to fast track building that stadium. Also, the other part of that is, I think the second location in Prince William, they’re looking at [inaudible 00:04:06] Road. If you look at [inaudible 00:04:08] Road, they will have to extend, I think the blue line of the Metro, which is a $27 billion project.
Derrick Wood: Way more expensive than ideally Dumfries area, Potomac District is the ideal location for this, in my humble opinion. And that’s because of, when you look at the transportation getting in and out, you’re looking at Metro versus VRE. So VRE, we get two-way service. We can get the extended service and that bridge will have to get fast tracked and get built. Two, on 234, you also have the Potomac Shores Parkway is going to get built. Now because we just approved the roles, I think the developer of Potomac Shores Parkway and the roles are all working together because once that new project in Dumfries gets built, we’ve got to move traffic off the highway to the different projects and people are going to want to get home. And what’s unique in our area is currently we’re a cul-de-sac by Route One, which by the way, is not something that’s owned by Prince William County.
Derrick Wood: It’s a federal highway that runs from Maine all the way down to Florida. So we’re a cul-de-sac. We’ve got that Route One widening project going. And so with the infrastructure too, I talked about the VRE two- way service, but two, we have a major waterway in Dumfries that Dumfries was built on. When you look at the rich history of Dumfries, Dumfries being the oldest continuously chartered town in the state of Virginia. And you think about why did our forefathers choose Dumfries? It’s because we had this beautiful creek that they can get to right off the Potomac that they both can come on. And it used to take a lot of goods and services in and out of Dumfries. I actually got a ledger in the town hall where you come through, where George Washington’s signature, he came to [inaudible 00:05:46] tobacco and goods in Dumfries. You see George Mason, you see Thomas Jefferson, a lot of those guys came to Dumfries buying goods and services.
Derrick Wood: And why is that? Because the waterway was convenient. There is actually on record that the amount of tobacco and goods and services was leaving the town of Dumfries rivaled New York City as early as 1798.
ST Billingsley: So what kind of things would have to be done to be able to make that happen for Dumfries?
Derrick Wood: So we have to look at right now, we have the infrastructure bill got passed, of course. I’m in contact with Supervisor Bailey’s office. I’m in contact with Senator Warner’s office. And right now, we’re trying to get a flood study done for Quantico Creek. Which in the town of Dumfries, the community really got disconnected because it got silted in. They had poor farming practices. They were planting tobacco, putting tobacco down and all the soil began to shift in. So we lost all commercial traffic in and out of Quantico Creek over there. And for whatever reason, the last two centuries, nobody has looked at Dumfries as a viable place. That creek getting silted in is why Dumfries, the town of Dumfries became economically depressed. People begin after that creek silted in to actually really move from the area.
Derrick Wood: They moved to Alexandria. Alexandria became the powerhouse that it is. And by the way, Alexandria was birthed from Dumfries. They took the house out of Dumfries, moved it up to Alexandria just so they can get their charter. And we beat them by 30 minutes. But that’s a side story. I know, I’m into this history. So we became economically depressed. People moved to Alexandria. People moved to Fredericksburg, to the other big bodies of water. And Dumfries became a mass exodus of people just leaving. Even the town of Dumfries was the county seat before the city of Manassas. So the courthouse then left Dumfries as well. And we became this sleepy town for all of these years until somebody came and was like, “Yo, there’s a huge potential. And there’s a rich history that needs to be rediscovered.”
ST Billingsley: So with the stadium coming in, if it actually did, what else would come along with it academically, whether it be jobs, stores, restaurants? I mean, what else would come along with the stadium?
Derrick Wood: So that’s a great question. And the third part of the transportation, I’m going to answer that question because we’ve got to talk about a bridge. There needs to be another Potomac River crossing with a bridge for traffic to go over. The big two is American Legion Bridge and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. There’s been talks for years in Southbridge having a bridge built across. But all of the studies for a Potomac River crossing bridge are 40 or 50 years old. So there needs to be an updated study to really talk about where can we build a bridge to go over to Maryland down on this side. And that will alleviate traffic, especially from that Route One corridor to get people across the bridge. And I think the Potomac Shores Parkway that’s coming and the stadium will give another opportunity for alternative lesson.
Derrick Wood: Now, when you talk about other things for the stadium, they’re talking about making this a stadium complex. When you look at what the Dallas Cowboys done, they built these big mega stadiums. They just had the Super Bowl in LA. That stadium is a brand new stadium as well. They’re building these entertainment complexes. Now with the way they want to fund this with the state of Virginia creating a… They’re in talks now in the General Assembly, the House, and the Senate side both have bills that they’re reconciling now, but they’re really talking about what can we do to really create this financing, but to bring opportunities like restaurants, additional housing, office spaces, maybe even a sports complex. This would be a public use facility. The thing that I like to remind people when there’s a football stadium, football teams only have probably eight, nine home games a year.
Derrick Wood: So you are looking at September maybe one or two games, October maybe one or two, November, December, and maybe January. It’s very seasonal. So the type of people that you think will be coming in, otherwise, it’s a public use facility. So now you think about it, there’s no indoor sports complex for our youth. So in Prince William County schools right now, if kids are running indoor track, they have to come to the school at 5:00 in the morning, load up on a school bus or charter bus and drive all the way to Lynchburg or they would have to drive all the way over to Prince George’s County, Maryland just to go and do an indoor track event, sporting event.
ST Billingsley: So what other kind of things? So again, sporting events, any concerts, that kind of thing?
Derrick Wood: Yeah. It would have the opportunity to bring in concerts. We have Jiffy Lube Live on the west side, but there’s nothing on the east side of this county that’s really viable. Another thing I think that the stadium would be able to do is it will help us to recapture a lot of our resources, our tax revenue that leaves the area because we go shopping in DC, we go eat in DC, Crystal City, and we can really stay in Prince William County and be able to recapture a lot of that funding and those resources that we’re missing.
ST Billingsley: Yeah. It seems like, especially with a lot of, for the past quite a few years, all the developments on the west side of the county seems like the east side gets forgotten a little bit. We actually need something here to help us economically, even for people who live here.
Derrick Wood: The east side, I believe we are the Southeast entrance into Washington, DC. You’ve got to come through Prince William County to get to Washington, DC. And so us being that gateway to have that attraction, you look at it, I think right now the football team has really outgrown their stay in Maryland because they’re competing against Baltimore Ravens, which is right down the road. So they’re eating up their revenue share. Their fan base is in Tennessee, North Carolina. They have fan base in Southern Virginia, otherwise. So their fan base, the whole NASCAR, Joe Gibbs and all of those guys, they’re coming up to support this team. And so this is an ideal location. They don’t have far to drive. We’re building a massive hotel in that town of Dumfries, if you didn’t know, The Rose. It’s going to have 350 beautiful rooms for people to come up and to stay.
Derrick Wood: I mean, the tourism, the economic impact for this area, it’ll be tremendous. And if it’s done right, and we can build the foundation, which is the infrastructure, I want to put emphasis on those things. If we dredge this water, because we can have the nice little yachts and the boat transportation. Nice little water taxis that’ll take you from Alexandria to National Harbor. And we can talk about building a bridge. And then we can also talk about two-way rail service. And then we can move people out without adding all of the stress. And you’re only talking about eight games a year. I think this is a tremendous opportunity. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of opportunities that the county can take care of. And it’s going to take people looking at how does it line up to the vision, the comprehensive plan, the strategic plan. And if it makes sense, to take advantage of it. Success loves speed. That’s a Jack Canfield saying, success loves speed. And so the faster we act, the faster we can take advantage of this.
ST Billingsley: Yeah. So, with the baseball stadium that was here going to Fredericksburg, all of a sudden people missed it. They maybe didn’t realize what they had lost. [inaudible 00:12:54]. So this would actually be even bigger.
Derrick Wood: This would be bigger. It’d be much better. It’ll be on the water. I mean, imagine overlooking the Potomac River and being able to really bring vitality to that river again. Because now the waterways and the environment, and really, and you look at our history in America. Back in the 40’s and 50’s, we made 70% of our federal tax dollars with the infrastructure. Now we barely put 7% into infrastructure. That’s why this last infrastructure bill was a big deal because you go all around the world, you look at all the airports, you look at the infrastructure and what they’re building. They’re investing in infrastructure. We’re missing a tremendous opportunity to put money back in… Since we haven’t seen any major infrastructure since the interstate’s been built.
ST Billingsley: Well, I’ll tell you what, it is definitely a unique opportunity for Prince William County and Woodbridge Dumfries area. And we do appreciate you taking the time to be on our show with us today. Of course, we’d always love you coming on. You always have something neat and new going on.
Derrick Wood: Yeah. Dumfries is, we’re moving. For those who are looking to relocate, we’re growing. We’ve got townhouses being built. We got a bunch of, we just approved a major senior living facility. We upped it from 40 senior units to another 100. So we approved two senior units in the last six months to get built in Dumfries. And I asked the developer, I said, “You know something we don’t know?” He said, “Yeah, people are living longer and they need places to stay.” So it’s age 55 and older type communities. Our population has grown. I mean, we’ve increased the revenue in Dumfries over the last three years 50%. And we’re going to do a 300% revenue increase by the time this project is built in two years. And so I’m excited about not only the work that the staff is doing, but the town council that works with me and their foresight to be able to hold onto a vision and to be able to help execute it. It’s what we’re doing and the type of growth we’re having in this economy compared to all of the sister towns that we are around.
Derrick Wood: When we look at Vienna, when we look at Purcellville, when we look at Herndon, nobody is making the strides in development that the town of Dumfries has made in the last three years. And so-
ST Billingsley: There’s definitely been a change.
Derrick Wood: I’m happy to be the chief ambassador, the chief voice for the town of Dumfries. I’m going to continue to represent. And I’m going to continue to be a cheerleader and a sounding board to continue to develop it economically, just as I promised to when I got in there.
ST Billingsley: Well, thank you so much for being on our show today. Really appreciate every time that you come on and talk about the neat things going on.
Derrick Wood: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. Hey, make sure y’all hit that like button, y’all subscribe, that y’all tuned in. Y’all take time to share this because you learned something that somebody else probably don’t know. Tag somebody and comment below what you think your perspective is on what we talked about today.
ST Billingsley: And thank you for joining us today on community conversations on What’s Up Prince William.