If Hagerstown builds a $7 million convention center that could accommodate up to 5,000 visitors, it could be one of two things - a big boost for the area's tourism efforts, or a costly boondoggle. Before a dime is spent on consultant studies, property appraisals or anything similar, citizens need the answer to one question: Where is another community, similar to Hagerstown, doing the same thing successfully?
If there is such a place, it shouldn't be hard to find. The idea of attracting conventions that are too small for Washington, D.C. and Baltimore is too obvious to be original. Somewhere around the Capital Beltway, someone else has tried this idea, and they're either making a lot of money or struggling to pay the debt service on the construction.
Looking at what nearby areas are doing is an approach that worked with the Hagerstown ice rink. Those studying the idea found that a rink in nearby Frederick was so popular that it was getting tough to find ice time for youth hockey teams. That meant that Hagerstown could count on some overflow business, and perhaps foster competition between the two cities' teams.