Stadium funding faces opponents

November 21, 1997

Stadium funding faces opponents


Staff Writer

The chances of winning state funding for a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns are fading, at least during the upcoming General Assembly session, area lawmakers said Thursday.

Members of Washington County's legislative delegation said that without a firm proposal from local officials, they would be unable to seek stadium funding when the General Assembly begins its annual session Jan. 14.

"I don't think the General Assembly is willing to entertain any kind of legislation unless that kind of (local) commitment comes first," Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said during a meeting of Hagerstown elected officials, Washington County Commissioners and members of the county's legislative delegation.


The Suns, who are in the Class A South Atlantic League, have one year remaining on their lease with the city for Municipal Stadium. Owner Winston Blenckstone has asked the city to consider building a new sports complex to replace Municipal Stadium and revive interest in the team.

In October the city and county appointed a nine-member committee to study the stadium issue, but the panel's report isn't due until after the 90-day General Assembly session ends.

Lawmakers said that without a plan that specifies a site or a dollar amount, they could not get stadium legislation passed.

"I think if you want to pursue this, you ought to come up with a very firm proposal," Del. J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington, told city officials.

City officials also are seeking state relief for about $7.5 million the city owes to the state's retirement system. During the last session, the city sought to have its debt reduced from $10 million to $5 million, but the General Assembly approved only half that amount.

During the upcoming session, the city would like to have the debt whittled down to $5 million.

"Naturally, that is a major issue the city would like to pursue," said City Councilman William M. Breichner.

Given the state's current surplus, Councilman Alfred W. Boyer wondered if the city should ask for even more.

"I think we ought to reduce (the pension debt) down to zero," he said.

But Munson said anticipated enhancements to the state pension system, which would result in Hagerstown and other municipalities contributing more money to the pension system, might spell trouble for the city seeking additional money to have its debt reduced.

Some lawmakers might ask why the city can pay for an enhanced pension system but not retire its current debt, he said.

"I'm just seeing a lot of people in Annapolis, I'd suspect, who are going to see this as rather ambivalent," Munson said.

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