City leaders consider reprieve for roundhouse

June 04, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown civic and business leaders said Wednesday they will try to save the Hagerstown Roundhouse, at least long enough to determine whether a convention center could be built at the site.

They also will consider commissioning a study on the affordability of building a minor league baseball stadium.

Those present conjured up images of conventioneers touring the roundhouse, walking through City Park, hopping a gas-operated trolley to shop downtown and boarding an excursion train.

It would take at least four to five months to complete a study on whether the roundhouse property along South Burhans Boulevard is appropriate for a convention center, said Kim I. McCalla, project manager with the Maryland Stadium Authority.

CSX has given Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum Inc. officials until July 3 to raise $500,000 to buy the property and to find a government agency willing to assume legal responsibility for any problems that might arise. If museum officials, who want to turn the roundhouse into a tourist attraction, fail to meet the deadline, the building will be razed, CSX has said.


Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he will ask CSX Real Property officials to extend the July 3 deadline.

CSX Real Property President Stephen Beck said Wednesday in a telephone interview he must have proof that the museum has the $500,000 and has found a government agency to assume responsibility for the property by July 3 or the buildings will be razed.

Beck said local officials had eight to 10 years to save the roundhouse but took no action until CSX officials said they would take steps to protect themselves from potential lawsuits.

If the deadline were extended and plans for a convention center fell through, Beck said CSX would expect to be reimbursed for demolition costs.

Bruchey said he would discuss those issues with Beck.

McCalla said she will ask state legislators for permission to conduct feasibility studies for a convention center and a stadium.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he doesn't expect any objections.

The stadium authority's involvement would benefit local officials if they ask state legislators to help fund the projects, McCalla said.

The studies could list possible sites, costs, methods of financing, methods of paying off the debt and the number of events a convention center might host per year, officials said.

Feasibility studies for the stadium and convention center could cost from $40,000 to more than $60,000, McCalla said.

Possible funding sources for the studies include the city, the county, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Greater Hagerstown Committee, officials said.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said no funds are budgeted for the feasibility studies, but money from the city's Community Betterment Fund or the economic development budget could be used.

The mayor and City Council will meet with the Washington County Commissioners on June 16 to discuss whether the county can help pay for feasibility studies for the stadium and convention center, officials said.

The roundhouse was considered earlier as a site for a convention center, but the idea was dropped because of the CSX requirement that the property's next owners take financial responsibility for any environmental hazards.

The convention center could go on 23 acres known as Academy Hill on the east side of the CSX property. The crescent-shaped roundhouse and related buildings are on the west side.

The preferred site for a stadium is near Interstate 81 in the city's West End.

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