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Stadium forum proposed

August 06, 1997

Stadium forum proposed

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Washington County Commissioner Ron Bowers said Wednesday a public forum should be held to find out whether residents support a new minor league baseball stadium.

But, other local elected officials are divided over whether it's the appropriate time to approach the public when a site and financing for a new stadium haven't been finalized.

"The discussions need to begin. We can't continue to wait," Bowers said Wednesday.

If the public did support a new stadium, so would the county, he said.

Bowers said a forum should be held by Oct. 1 so Hagerstown Suns owner Winston Blenckstone knows whether there's community support for a new stadium.

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During a July brainstorming session between the mayor and City Council, Councilman Wally McClure proposed a forum be held on the matter, but now thinks the forum can wait.

Before a forum can be held, a formal proposal is needed that includes cost and funding sources, McClure said.

"If we open this up to public discussion now, it would just get out of hand before we had time to consider the merits of the project," McClure said.

"Right now it's so far up in the air that just talking about it is ludicrous," Mayor Bob Bruchey said.

When the time comes city and Hagerstown Suns officials will make a joint pitch to the public concerning a new stadium, Bruchey said.

Commissioners President Greg Snook agreed that a forum should be put off until there is a formal plan.

While the county cannot afford the project, a new stadium might be eligible for state Program Open Space funds that are distributed by the county, Snook said. "I'd like to see some private monies put into it," he said.

Snook also said he'd prefer a sports complex that could be used for minor league baseball as well as soccer, field hockey and softball.

Suns General Manager David Blenckstone said a new stadium is expected to cost between $8 and $10 million. One site being considered is by Interstate 81 between Marshall Street and Salem Avenue.

Blenckstone said a forum should be held for public discussion, but doubted it would change anyone's opinion about the project, which was proposed last September.

Commissioner Jim Wade said he doesn't need a forum to be held because he already knows he's opposed to a new stadium.

"In my opinion, there are school construction projects and bridges that need to be built in this community before we build a ball stadium," Wade said.

But Commissioner Lee Downey said if the public supported the project, the commissioners would have to consider supporting it as well.

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