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Editorial - Suns need an answer

February 02, 1998

Hagerstown Suns' owner Winston Blenckstone, who's watched local officials dither around for a couple of years on the question of whether they want a new minor league baseball stadium here, says it's time to decide.

Blenckstone, who signed a one-year deal to take his team back to Municipal Stadium, says he wants the matter solved before the next election, after which he'll probably have to deal with a new cast of characters. We agree; he deserves a decision. But an outcome favorable to the Suns is anything but certain.

Maryland House Speaker Casper Taylor has said that there would be state money available for a new stadium, if local government officials got behind it. Gov. Parris Glendening said almost the same thing two weeks ago. But so far, the response from local elected officials hasn't been overwhelming, in large part because of the lack of any large-scale citizen support for such a plan.

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Is that too harsh an assessment? If there is a major lobbying campaign going on, it must be in stealth mode, because we're unaware of it. If proponents of a new stadium want to succeed, they need a public campaign that would send buses to Annapolis, raise money for the effort and circulate petitions supporting the pledge of local tax dollars.

It's this last item that might be tough for county residents to swallow, given recent local tax increases needed to offset some of the county's $50 million-plus water/sewer debt. Building a stadium on the premise that it would bring economic benefits would depend on county residents having a faith in government that they might lack right now.

Unlike a water-treatment plant, a new stadium is not one of the necessities of life, so elected officials aren't going to jump on the bandwagon without some encouragement. If citizens want a new stadium, they must tell elected officials to commit some cash now. As patient as he's been, the Suns' owner won't wait forever for his answer.

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