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Council members OK studies on fairgrounds

September 16, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown residents eventually could play soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball, field hockey, lacrosse, roller hockey, tackle a BMX bike course, ice skate and walk or ride a mile of trails at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds.

Hagerstown City Council members gave the go ahead on Tuesday for KCI Technologies Inc. of Hunt Valley, Md., to do traffic and stormwater management studies and develop cost estimates based on a proposed master plan for the 68-acre property.

KCI officials are expected to return in November so council members can make final decisions about the plan, including whether to renovate and expand the grandstand, which could cost more than $1 million, said Assistant City Engineer Rodney Tissue.

Under the proposal, the seating would be gutted and walls would be erected around the steel structure to house three multi-purpose courts that could be used for basketball, volleyball or indoor soccer, Tissue said during a council work session.

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An elevated jogging track could be built around the courts, he said in an interview on Monday.

The building's basement could be leased for book sales and flea markets or used for gymnastics, Tissue said.

The proposal calls for a conference and observation deck so people can look out over the outdoor fields, including three softball fields and three multipurpose fields that could be used for soccer, lacrosse or field hockey, Tissue said.

The proposal also calls for several picnic pavilions, more than 1,000 parking spaces, an area for families to play, an outdoor basketball court and a junior soccer field next to the ice rink.

Some smaller buildings will be demolished starting in October. Grading of the land will begin in April and will take most of the summer, Tissue said.

The city has $1.3 million for the first phase of the project, which will take several years to be completed.

Some fields could be ready in the fall of 1999, but officials could decide to wait to use them until spring 2000 to give newly planted grass a chance to mature, Tissue said.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she wants to know if the project can be reworked to make some fields or activities available at the fairgrounds next year.

City officials are expected to talk to local athletic leagues to determine how much they will use the fairgrounds facilities when it's redeveloped and whether they will help manage and maintain the facilities.

The possibility of having a private operator run the fairgrounds will be explored, as will the issuing of naming rights for certain areas to help generate revenue, Tissue said.

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