Blenckstone seeks stadium funding

January 15, 1998

Blenckstone seeks stadium funding


Staff Writer

Hagerstown Suns owner Winston Blenckstone has made a pitch for a $9 million baseball stadium financed mostly by taxpayers, but some state and local officials indicated they don't support the plan.

Washington County Commissioner James R. Wade said that under one proposal discussed by Blenckstone this week, the state would fund half of the cost, and the City of Hagerstown would pay $2.5 million. Another $2 million would need to be raised.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he would be willing to float city bonds to pay for a stadium, but only if rent and other revenue, such as parking fees, could pay back the bonds.


"If we have to subsidize a stadium with taxpayer money, that's not a plan that I can live with," he said.

Wade and Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers say they don't support putting county money into the stadium.

"The day of the taxpayer paying the bill for a stadium is coming to a screeching halt," Bowers said.

"We've got to fund our priorities and that's not a priority for us," Wade said.

Blenckstone would have to make a substantial financial contribution before taxpayers should be asked to pay, Wade said.

Blenckstone said he's willing to sign a 10-year lease at $100,000 a year and pay for luxury boxes, which would cost $200,000 to $400,000.

He said he'd like to see a plan come together in time for this year's state legislative session.

State Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, said the stadium wasn't one of his priorities.

"I don't think the General Assembly is going to be very hot on a proposal where the local governments don't substantially contribute to the costs of this thing," he said. Munson said local governments usually shoulder about 70 percent of the burden at new ballparks.

City Council members Alfred W. Boyer and William M. Breichner said $2.5 million would be a small price for the city to pay to keep baseball.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said he's undecided on the stadium, and would need to see a solid financial plan before signing on. He said he wasn't in favor of raising taxes to pay for a stadium.

Bowers and McClure said people want a team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates or New York Yankees - not the Toronto Blue Jays, the team's current affiliate.

"They're not a United States team," Bowers said.

Blenckstone said he was disappointed in the remarks.

"It's unfortunate that the Canadian bashing and the Blue Jay bashing is happening in this community," Blenckstone said.

Blenckstone said people should remember that he and the Blue Jays decided to come to Hagerstown, while the Orioles affiliate chose to leave Hagerstown.

He said he was open to changing affiliations if the opportunity presented itself and if that's what the fans wanted. He he said because of his contract with the Blue Jays, he could not change affiliations until after the 1998 season.

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