Stadium's Marlboro Man coming down

November 12, 1997

Stadium's Marlboro Man coming down


Staff Writer

Hagerstown Suns owner Winston Blenckstone saw the handwriting on the billboard for months.

On Tuesday, the minor league baseball team announced the Marlboro Man advertisement would come down from its perch in left field at Municipal Stadium.

"It's just been here for so long and has been such a recognizable part of the ballpark. It's a shame that this specific advertisement has to come down," said David Blenckstone, the team's general manager.


Blenckstone said the Philip Morris Co. informed the club last week that it would not renew the five-year advertising contract that expired at the end of season. He said the tobacco company told team officials that pending legislation in Congress has forced the industry to limit sports advertising.

"It's pretty much the case in minor league ballparks all over the country," Blenckstone said.

With its distinctive silhouette cowboy figure, the advertisement has been a fixture at the stadium since 1982.

Blenckstone said Philip Morris officials have not indicated when they will take down the sign.

"They may just come in one day, take it down and get out of here," he said.

Philip Morris paid about $2,500 per year for the advertisement. Blenckstone said most of the billboards - there are 71 inside the park - cost between $2,000 and $2,400. He said the team has not received any inquiries from other businesses but expects offers after word gets out that the Marlboro Man is riding into the sunset.

Its location makes it a prime spot and the tobacco company has offered to sell the pole on which it rests for $1, Blenckstone said.

The unique shape of the billboard was not the only unusual feature of the advertising deal, Blenckstone said; the five-year contract was rare, he said. Most companies buy space on a year-to-year basis.

The prospect of the sign coming down elicited strong reactions from fans attending a Suns game this summer. Many said they felt the advertisement didn't hurt anyone and added to the character of the ballpark.

Others, however, said removing the advertisement was appropriate because of the negative message it sent to kids.

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