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Stadium supports turn out at hearing

December 16, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Several Hagerstown residents and business people on Tuesday voiced strong opinions, mostly favorable, about whether a new baseball stadium should be built in the city.

"Maryland is going to build one more stadium" using funds from the Maryland Lottery Commission, former Mayor Pat Paddack said.

State money has gone to stadiums in Baltimore, Bowie, Frederick and Salisbury and "there isn't a cotton pickin' dollar spent in Western Maryland," Paddack said.

About 80 people attended a 90-minute meeting in the Frostburg State University Hagerstown Center's downtown conference center to hear the results of a study by Conventions Sports & Leisure International of Minneapolis.

CSL International presenter John T. Kaatz didn't say whether the city should build a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns, but said comparable markets have built minor league baseball stadiums and succeeded.

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A new Class A stadium that draws 3,500 people per game could have a $4 million economic impact on the community, according to the study. The current team and stadium already pump almost $2.5 million into the community, the study says.

The question is whether local officials want to spend the money to build a stadium, Kaatz said.

A few residents said they were strongly opposed to a new stadium, saying the city had enough debt and failures with the ice rink, parking deck and a privately owned paper recycling plant, which shut down in August 1997.

"I just can't believe (a new stadium) is anything other than a boost to our local economy," Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said.

Suns General Manager David Blenckstone said the team wouldn't necessarily leave if a new stadium isn't built. The only option the team has explored has been to get a new stadium, he said.

The Suns have a lease to play at Municipal Stadium along East Memorial Boulevard through the 1999 season. The team's two-year affiliation agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays is up for renewal in September.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said when he campaigned for a council seat he didn't support public funding for a new stadium and hasn't changed his mind.

McClure said he thought the study's attendance projections at a new stadium were too high.

The study states attendance could go from 1,785 people per game to 3,200 or higher.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein arrived late and council members William M. Breichner and Lewis C. Metzner were absent.

City officials set aside $50,000 from the Community Betterment Fund for the study.

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