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New Suns stadium touted

February 17, 1999

New StadiumBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




Build a new minor-league baseball stadium and fans will come, the former chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority told Washington County business leaders Tuesday.

Lose the Hagerstown Suns by not building it, and new businesses might not come, warned John A. Moag Jr., who said Washington County's economic development efforts would suffer if the Hagerstown Suns left the county.

"The bottom line is the rest of the world does look at you as a loser," said Moag, after telling the story of how Baltimore lost the Colts because politicians dismissed the owner's threat to leave unless he could get a loan for a new stadium.

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The Maryland Stadium Authority was born out of the hard lesson learned from the Colts' departure, which, though hard to quantify, undoubtedly hurt Baltimore economically, he said.

The featured speaker for a luncheon program sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Moag was talking mostly to supporters of a new stadium for the Hagerstown Suns.

His audience of about three dozen people included Suns owner Winston Blenckstone, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Director John C. Howard.

A new stadium would boost the Suns' attendance to 250 percent to 300 percent of what it is now, Moag contends.

Thanks to new stadiums, three other minor-league teams in Maryland drew substantially more fans last season than the Hagerstown Suns did, he said.

Attendance was roughly 301,000 in Frederick, 295,000 in Salisbury and 400,000 in Bowie, compared with roughly 109,000 in Hagerstown, Moag said.

The level of baseball or how well a team is doing isn't as key in attracting fans as a nice stadium, he said.

"Your attendance shouldn't be 109," said Moag, who projects attendance on par with that of Frederick Keys games if the Suns get a new stadium.

"Stadiums do bring people in. We learned that in Baltimore," he said.

The Stadium Authority funded Oriole Park at Camden Yards and PSINet Stadium, where the Ravens play, by issuing revenue bonds, Moag said.

With the direction of the state legislature and governor, the authority, theoretically, could help fund the $14.5 million baseball stadium and business park complex being supported by the City of Hagerstown, Moag said.

State funding for the ballparks in Frederick, Salisbury and Bowie didn't come through the authority, he said.

Blenckstone said he could recite reasons to build a new stadium, including the age of the 68-year-old Municipal Stadium, the increasing cost of maintenance, its location in a floodplain, insufficient parking and the financial stability of a small, local business.

Last week, the Washington County Commissioners and the Hagerstown City Council asked a quasi-public development group to study the feasibility of the proposed Home Run Business Park at Interstate 81 and Salem Avenue.

Merle Elliott, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, said he would present the request at the next board meeting.

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