Bowers' business park plan includes stadium

February 09, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Bowers' business park plan includes stadium

Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers said Monday he'll unveil plans today for a West End business park complex to include a new baseball stadium, a tourist information center and a rest stop for Interstate 81 travelers.

The plans will include a map with proposals for roads on 68 acres owned by Vincent Groh between Md. 58 and Maugansville Road.

A business park would maximize the use of the land, which borders two interchanges, and would bring new businesses to the county, Bowers said.


The county could recoup at least some of the money it puts into the park through the sale of land to new businesses, he said. The move also would increase revenue to the underused Conococheague Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"It's good all the way around," Bowers said. "I know it'll be controversial, but nothing ventured, nothing gained."

A private donor is needed if the stadium deal is to succeed, he said.

"We're just fighting an uphill battle without that major private sector involvement," Bowers said.

Bowers said he was working on details of how much the complex might cost and how it would be financed.

The County Commissioners will discuss whether to support a new stadium today at 9:30 a.m.

Under one plan, the state would pay $4.5 million to $5 million for the stadium, the City of Hagerstown would chip in $2.5 million and the county $2.5 million.

Other commissioners are wary about spending county money on the project.

County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he wants to hear a firm plan before committing to anything.

"I think that it's very important that we find out who is going to be paying for this. The numbers keep changing and the costs keep escalating," Snook said.

"The county's dollars are limited and I want to make sure that our other priorities are being met," Snook said.

Snook said he'd like to see Hagerstown Suns owner Winston Blenckstone put more money into the stadium.

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

"I just don't see enough support out there for the county to put in $2 million or $2.5 million," said Commissioner R. Lee Downey. Downey said the calls he's getting from residents are divided fairly evenly between supporters and opponents. He also said the county has too many other needs.

Downey said he might be willing to put some money into a business park, perhaps run by the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation.

Downey said he originally thought an athletic complex with soccer fields might be a good idea, but said the land is too valuable to use as fields.

County Commissioner James R. Wade said he could support an industrial park or a travel center, but that a grant to build a stadium is inappropriate.

"We don't need a stadium," Wade said.

Wade said he'd like to know how Bowers would pay for his plan.

Wade also questioned why it's so easy to get state funding for a stadium but not for water and sewer.

Commissioner John S. Shank couldn't be reached Monday. Shank has said he would find it difficult to support spending money on a stadium.

Any funding for the stadium would compete with other county projects. The county's five-year capital budget plan shows a shortfall of $32 million, and the commissioners have ordered a $115,000 study that will recommend ways to pay for the costs of growth, such as impact fees and special taxing districts.

Blenckstone said Friday he plans to hold a press conference sometime this week.

Blenckstone received the authority from Hagerstown City Council in January to pursue a sponsor to buy naming rights for a new stadium, but wouldn't comment on whether he's lined one up.

Blenckstone said he'd like to get a funding commitment for a stadium during this year's legislative session.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has said he would support a stadium provided the plan had strong local and private support.

Blenckstone had set a Feb. 15 deadline for the local commitments to be secured.

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